Health Care

Jameson Hospital Staff Is Jubilant at UPMC Merger

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NEW CASTLE, Pa. – The cafeteria in Jameson Hospital North Campus held a standing-room-only audience of jubilant and smiling people Monday, a day many had despaired they would ever see.

May 2 was a day of celebration because the future of the hospital is assured as in no interruption of the health care it provides the residents of Lawrence County.

Physicians, nurses, board members, officers, retired officers, other hospital staff, officeholders and retired officeholders, UPMC officials — all filled the cafeteria. Everyone had played a role in putting Jameson Health System Inc. under the UPMC umbrella.

Longtime employees such as Connie DePaolo, a registered nurse in the emergency department and not far from retirement, expressed relief that she need no longer worry about her job. DePaolo, who began at Jameson in 1987, said, “Not only will I have this hospital, my children will have this hospital” to meet their health-care needs.

She had her doubts whether Jameson would survive, she said. “There were always doubts,” DePaolo allowed, but she no longer has reason to worry about seeking a nursing position elsewhere.

As the president of UPMC Jameson, Doug Danko, stated in his opening remarks, “UPMC Jameson is what we wanted to achieve.”

The route to that integration was filled with bumps, steep curves and the occasional roadblock.

Earlier this decade, when the board of Jameson determined the best future of the hospital lay with UPMC, “We knew there’d be challenges and twists and turns,” Danko recalled.

When the merger was announced in September 2014, Jameson was experiencing a $5 million gap between the $105 million it recorded in net patient revenue and $110 million in annual operating expenses.

UPMC had acquired hospital systems in Greenville and Farrell in Mercer County and others throughout western Pennsylvania. It is a highly respected health system — Danko called it “one of the 10 best in the United States” — and the logic seemed clear.

The office of the Pennsylvania attorney general, however, didn’t see it that way and directed the Jameson board to seek other suitors. None had the financial wherewithal of UPMC.

Danko thanked the Lawrence County commissioners and Mayor Tony Mastrangelo for their trips to the attorney general’s office in Harrisburg to plead Jameson’s case and noted the efforts of the county delegation to Harrisburg as well.

“When the outlook looked bleak,” Danko said, the community dug in with renewed determination, just working harder to communicate the necessity of Jameson becoming part of the UPMC system.

“The [Jameson] board was relentless in their work,” Danko said. “And we couldn’t have done this without the community. You gave us time you didn’t have.”

Leslie Davis, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the health services division of UPMC, began by “congratulating you on your tenacity. The board never gave up, never lost hope.”

What UPMC brings to Jameson is financial stability, “$75 million in investments in the infrastructure and facilities,” Davis noted, and in addition a $10 million commitment to “strategic physician recruitment.”

UMPC assures the residents of Lawrence County that they will have a hospital “on the cutting edge in health care technology and quality assurance with local access to world-class UPMC,” she said.

To thank the Jameson staff for their unflagging efforts and caring for their patients over the last 14 months despite the uncertainty, the hospital served decorated huge sheet cakes: regular, gluten- free and sugar-free.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.