Jefferson Hills residents question need for proposed UPMC South facility
UPMC leaders say a 63-bed hospital in Jefferson Hills — planned for construction roughly one mile from Jefferson Hospital — is needed to fill a void for their health insurance members.
Some neighbors say they’re not so sure.
“I’m just frustrated,” said Julie Sprites, 50, whose Old Clairton Road home overlooks the proposed site of the new hospital. “I don’t think it’s something that is needed.”
UPMC held an open house at the Jefferson Hills municipal building on Nov. 20, where leaders were on hand to discuss plans for the proposed UPMC South facility.
UPMC plans to build near the intersection of Elliot Road and Route 51. Several parcels of land near the intersection, including the former Practice T Golf Center, were purchased in the last year by AUUE Inc., according to county real estate records. UPMC officials on Nov. 20 indicated the health care giant owns the land.
The 225,000 square-foot, three-story hospital will include an emergency room, imaging center, women’s health facility, operating and recovery rooms, said Tom Demko, senior vice president of Cannon Design, which serves as the project manager. About 30,000 square feet will be dedicated to doctor offices.
There will be about 700 parking spaces on the property, with access off Elliot Road.
A traffic signal will be added to the intersection of Route 51 and Elliot. Practice T Drive will not be accessible to traffic and only used in case of an emergency, Demko said.
The hospital will sit about 100 feet up the hillside from Route 51. There’s a roughly 300 foot vertical distance between Old Clairton Road and Route 51, Demko said.
A helipad is planned for the corner end of the site, nearest to the Route 51/Elliot Road intersection. The flight path for helicopters will be along Route 51, Demko said.
The hospital, while small, will offer most services.
“This is going to be a full hospital. We’re going to operate on hips. We’re going to operate on knees,” said Saul Silver, a cardiologist at UPMC Shadyside. “We plan on giving the right kind of care to a patient at the right time.”
Lou Baverso, vice president of operations at UPMC Shadyside, pointed to UPMC’s insurance arm as a reason the facility is needed.
“Fifty-five thousand members that have our insurance card live out in this region and truly don’t have access to a UPMC facility,” he said.
About 700 people from the South Hills area head to Oakland every day for services, Baverso said.
“We think we could actually provide good quality care in their community, and they won’t need to travel 51,” he said. “The idea is to get the right services out here that serve the population and to give us an ambulatory presence out here that we don’t really have.”
While most of the property is not taxable, the ambulatory area, about 30,000 square feet of the hospital, will be taxable, Baverso said.
Jefferson Hills residents have been vocal about their desire to stop UPMC from coming to the neighborhood. Many showed up at the open house and questioned UPMC officials about the plans. Some sported “Say no to UPMC South” T-shirts.
One issue of contention has surrounded the property’s zoning.
Parcels purchased by AUUE include a mix of residential, office park and commercial.
However, the “entire project is designed to fit within all of the zoning ordinances,” Demko said.
Some Jefferson Hills residents have questioned whether that’s true.
Residents at the Nov. 20 meeting also said they are concerned about noise, lights and how the new facility will impact the borough’s emergency services.
“I’m concerned they’re going to expand. They say they’re not, but are they trustworthy? They came in under the cloak of a different name,” resident Norma Hajduk said.
UPMC leaders at the Nov. 20 program stressed the proposed hospital has everything to do with need and nothing to do with competing with Allegheny Health Network’s Jefferson Hospital.
“I don’t really think this decision has anything to do with Jefferson. This really is about the health plan membership,” Baverso said.
UPMC is in the beginning stages of submitting site plans for the project, Demko said. Plans are to seek permitting for the project in the second quarter of 2019, with construction starting in the fall.
The project will take 24 months to complete.
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.