Jameson, Awaiting Merger with UPMC, Cuts Operations

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – The Jameson Health System will modify its south campus, the former St. Francis Hospital, to a weekday daytime outpatient center from a 24/7 site, Douglas Danko, president and CEO of the Jameson system announced this morning.

The conversion is expected to occur around mid-August.

The decision was made Monday by the system’s board of directors. It comes as Jameson awaits approval from the Pennsylvania attorney general to merge with UPMC. A tentative agreement was signed in February and officials said then they expected approval by the end of April.

“The age and condition of our South Campus has made it impossible to financially sustain and preserve during the extended regulatory review period awaiting an impending merger with UPMC,” Danko said in a prepared statement. “Continued operation of the South Campus on a 24-hour basis is simply not sustainable at this time.”

The South Campus is at 1000 S. Mercer St.

The 220,000-square-foot building, which opened in 1919, has operated mostly as an outpatient clinic since the early 2000s, serving 300 geriatric patients annually, a spokeswoman said this morning, and another 600 adults with behavioral or mental health problems.

Some after-hours services, such as the Jameson Women’s Center and sleep laboratory, will be continued at other sites.

“This is not a decision that was easy for our board to make,” said Steve Warner, Jameson Hospital board chairman. “In an attempt to prevent such a situation as this, the board took action years ago to pursue a partner, knowing full well that outside financial resources were key to maintaining the services required in Lawrence County. Our definitive agreement with UPMC includes its commitment to invest the $70 to $80 million needed to provide continued services in Lawrence County, pay off debt, maintain aging facilities, and recruit new and needed physicians. It’s imperative that the attorney general’s office allow the Jameson-UPMC transaction to proceed immediately for the good of our community. Both Jameson and UPMC remain committed to the merger process.”

Some 200 work in the South Campus at any given time but most also work in other area within the Jameson system as well. The South Campus provides mental health services to between 12 and 16 patients admitted there. Two psychiatrists, as independent contractors, provide mental health services and are aided by behavioral health employees.

The psychiatric patients will be transferred elsewhere in the system.

Ophthalmologists perform cataract surgery and cornea transplants to outpatients, the spokeswoman said, and other physicians help outpatients with pain management. So while the South Campus will be open five days, the schedule of hours open Monday through Friday hasn’t be determined.

“A recent engineering assessment of the South Campus revealed that improvements needed to update the facility would require millions of dollars not currently available to the hospital,” the Jameson press release said.

“All alternatives have been investigate and the inpatient behavioral health service cannot be relocated within the system at a cost we can afford without the merger,” said Neil Chessin in a prepared statement. Chessin is vice president of operations for the system and administrator of the South Campus. “Regrettably, a number of positions will be eliminated.”

The Jameson agreement with UPMC, expected to take effect March 1, then April 1, remains under review by the office of the Pennsylvania attorney general. Under the agreement, UPMC committed

Pictured: Jameson Hospital’s South Campus building, 1000 S. Mercer St. in New Castle, Pa.

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