Allegheny Health Network outpatient center opens at The Waterworks
Allegheny Health Network on Wednesday opened a full-service outpatient center at The Waterworks, putting it in direct competition with UPMC St. Margaret less than a mile away.
Despite the close proximity to its rival, hospital leaders said the new center fills a primary care gap in that area.
Services include orthopedic care, cardiology, advanced diagnostics and obstetrics and gynecology.
“We have patients in this area that would usually drive to our primary care practices, and now they don’t have to,” Allegheny Clinic Operations senior vice president Mark Nussbaum said. “They can be on their way to Giant Eagle and stop and get their tests done.”
The $8 million facility is housed in the former Old Navy storefront, which was vacant in the shopping plaza along Freeport Road.
It is among $1 billion the organization spent over 18 months to expand its footprint and bring primary care into the community, AHN Medicine Institute Chair Susan Manzi said.
“This Route 28 corridor is really important to us,” Manzi said, citing a new neighborhood hospital eyed for 2019 at Freeport and Guys Run roads in Harmar.
Before the doors opened on July 18, strategic communications adviser Stephanie Waite said curious passersby were peeking in, hoping to see a physician.
“We had a woman early this morning who asked if she could get her blood drawn,” Waite said. “We think people will love the convenience.”
Express care service coming
An express care service is expected to open in the coming weeks for noncritical health issues. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends with no appointment necessary.
The center will employ about 35 people, many in newly created jobs, Waite said.
Renovations to the cavernous space took about a year.
The site was reconfigured to offer multiple clinical services under one roof, Nussbaum said. Exam rooms, labs and offices were built in pods so operations can flow like a racetrack, Nussbaum said, and health care professionals don’t have to zip back and forth across the 13,400-square-foot space. With 21 exam rooms, construction focused on shared work spaces and a team environment so everyone caring for a patient can confer, he said.
Orthopedic exam rooms are lumped together near the casting room, as are areas such as changing rooms in the imaging suite to accommodate patients who need a CT or mammogram.
Nussbaum said residents have not previously had access to AHN imaging in the Lower Valley and instead would have had to drive to primary practices such as those in Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood or Harrison.
There will be a rotating field of specialists at the site, including cardiologists, at least one day a week.
Future needs will be defined by demand.
Dr. Patrick DeMeo, chair of the AHN Orthopedic Institute and medical director for the Pittsburgh Pirates, recalled his first office in Bethel Park nearly 20 years ago. Today, orthopedic outpatient centers have grown to total 25 throughout Western Pennsylvania.
DeMeo said these facilities raise the bar for safety and cost, and bring options for second opinions to the patient.
Dr. Srinivas Murali, Cardiovascular Institute director and a Fox Chapel resident, said he’s been asking for an on-the-spot care center for years to serve the Lower Valley.
“Care that was hospital-based a decade ago is rapidly moving into the outpatient arena,” he said, adding that the facility will offer Doppler ultrasound and other imaging services to support internal care.
The onsite cardiologist, he said, will be a hypertension specialist.
Allegheny Health Network and its parent company, Highmark Health, announced plans last year to build four neighborhood hospitals and expand or renovate existing ones over the next four to five years. They are planned in Brentwood, Hempfield, Harmar and McCandless and are expected to open in 2019.
In the past year, AHN also opened a multidisciplinary outpatient center in Hempfield and is moving forward on five comprehensive community cancer centers and a new Academic Cancer Center at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
“Our philosophy at Allegheny Health Network is to keep care in the community for our patients, where it’s more convenient, effective and affordable,” said Cynthia Hundorfean, AHN president and CEO.
Internist David Shin told people at The Waterworks opening that he frequently saw people walking past the empty Old Navy store, trying to glance at work inside.
“You don’t have to peek in anymore,” Shin said. “You can walk right in. That’s what primary care is about.”
Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.