UPMC Hamot’s affiliation with Pittsburgh healthcare system

It is easy now, 10 years later, to downplay the concern of some of Erie’s political and community leaders about Hamot Medical Center joining UPMC.

Barry Grossman, then Erie County executive, said his biggest fear was that Hamot would downsize and possibly shut down as patients were sent to Pittsburgh for treatment.

Grossman, who died in May 2020, lived to see those fears proven false. Instead of downsizing or shutting down, Hamot has expanded its share of the northwestern Pennsylvania healthcare market over the past decade.

UPMC chairman David Gibbons said Hamot’s share of county patient revenue has increased from From 41% in 2010 to 54.6% in 2020.

“Our daily census when we joined UPMC was 235 patients,” Gibbons said. “In 2020 – if we remove the months of March, April and May due to the COVID-19 pandemic – we have an average of 334 patients. This is significant. “

Hamot’s decision to join the Pittsburgh healthcare system in February 2011 was the first in a series of local hospital affiliations and mergers as hospitals sought ways to control costs and improve physician recruitment.

Since then, Saint Vincent Hospital joined Highmark’s new Allegheny Health System in 2013, Titusville Area Hospital joined Meadville Medical Center in 2015, and Corry Memorial Hospital joined LECOM Health in 2018. .

“I think Hamot would be very different 10 years later if there was no affiliation,” Gibbons said. “Just look at the breadth of clinical services that have been added. Our kidney transplant program wouldn’t have existed. We couldn’t hire so many surgeons to make it happen.”

UPMC has pledged to spend $ 300 million in the first 10 years of its affiliation on technology and facility improvements in Hamot. To date, he has spent about $ 400 million, Gibbons said.

This includes the latest large-scale project, Hamot’s seven-story patient tower. It cost $ 111 million and is the single most expensive project in Hamot’s history.

More: The new UPMC Hamot patient tower is ready; ICU patients will be transferred there starting Tuesday

“Affiliation with a larger health care system has provided us with greater security,” said Richard Petrella, MD, a cardiologist who has worked in Hamot for 30 years. “With projects like the patient tower, these were things that would have been extremely difficult to do on their own.”

Hamot’s new buildings have altered the appearance of Erie Bay, but the biggest change since affiliation is the role Hamot has played in extending UPMC’s reach.

As the hub of the northern tier of the healthcare system, Hamot plays a vital role in providing patient care from to Kane and Jamestown, New York.

“Hamot was the first affiliation of a very distant hospital from our other hospitals, “said Leslie Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer of UPMC’s health services division, who was Hamot’s point of reference when he joined UPMC.” The affiliation went so well who provided us with the blueprint for future affiliations such as UPMC Altoona and UPMC Susquehanna. “

Gibbons, Davis, and other UPMC officials are enthusiastic about the past 10 years, but there have been obstacles.

A Look Back: Erie Hospitals prepare for division with massive expansions

One that caught statewide attention was the battle between UPMC and Highmark. Consensus decrees between the two Pittsburgh-based health giants were expected to expire in June 2019.

If that had happened, people with Highmark health insurance would have paid much higher living costs for treatment in Hamot and other UPMC hospitals and medical practices. It has led thousands of residents in the Erie area to change doctors or health insurance.

But UPMC and Highmark, with some encouragement from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office reached a new 10-year agreement just days before the consent decrees expired.

Gibbons said the UPMC-Highmark problems have paled compared to the COVID-19 pandemic, however.

“There was nothing bigger than the pandemic, because it addressed both our clinical side and our commercial side,” Gibbons said. “I can’t imagine running this pandemic as an independent hospital.”

More: COVID-19, one year later: Pennsylvania hospitals deal with financial and emotional tolls

As Hamot enters its second decade as a UPMC hospital, Gibbons and Davis have agreed that it will continue to serve as the northern hub of the healthcare system.

Patients from UPMC’s smaller hospitals in the region will continue to be relocated to Hamot for treatments that their own hospitals cannot provide. Some of Hamot’s patients will be brought to Pittsburgh for high-level procedures and surgeries that Erie Hospital doesn’t offer.

“But that’s not nearly the number some people feared it would be 10 years ago,” Davis. “Since our affiliation, the number of patients leaving Erie County for treatment has decreased by 12%.

“The truth is that Hamot has expanded its reach into new communities.”

Contact David Bruce at dbruce@timesnews.com. Follow him Twitter @ETNBruce.