PITTSBURGH, December 11-Supporters of the House of Hope, a unique shelter and counseling center for chemically-dependent, pregnant woman, rallied today at UPMC Braddock, calling on UPMC, the largest hospital corporation in Western Pennsylvania, to keep the facility open, to expand its services in Braddock, and to replicate these services in other low-income communities throughout the UPMC service territory.
UPMC has announced its intention to close House of Hope on January 2. In 2005, UPMC “challenged its community partners to develop new ways to address health care disparities in the localities served by [UPMC Braddock].” One of those new ways was supporting the House of Hope, which led to a dramatic decrease in the percentage of low birth weight babies. In 2007, UMPC boasted that “a robust and sustainable program that brings together UPMC, local clinics, government agencies, and other organizations is in place [in Braddock] to improve the care in the community.”
Ed Grystar, Vice President of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single Payer Healthcare noted, “The tragedy surrounding the cut in funding for the House of Hope amplifies the crying need for a total reordering of the nation’s health care delivery system away from the current insurance run profit first approach. Under a single payer plan embodied in [US House of Representatives bill] HR 676, citizens would receive heath care services based on their need and funding would be earmarked based upon the needs of the communities, not on the whims of profiteering health care corporations.”
Supporters of the House of Hope argue that the only thing that has changed since UPMC made these statements is that the services that House of Hope offers are more needed now.
Arik Morgan, a graduate of the House of Hope, credits the facility with changing her life. She is shocked that UPMC would close such a vitally needed agency. “UPMC claims to care so deeply about the community, yet at the first sign of financial problems it decides to cut a program that has a wonderful success rate,” Ms. Morgan said. “The UPMC sign on top of the U.S. Steel building probably costs more than it cost to run the House of Hope.”
Speakers said UPMC’s refusal to provide details about its plans for House of Hope shows that the mega corporation is more concerned with controlling the bad publicity the announced closing of House of Hope has generated, rather than maintaining a critically needed community service.
Pennsylvania state senator Jim Ferlo stated that “UPMC’s announcement that the House of Hope may stay open but with changes remains a cause for alarm. This has been an effective community based program in an underserved area of our County and should not be dislocated … which will drastically reduce its community presence and viability. I call on UPMC to convene all stakeholders to plan and implement an effective and expanded program …not one that becomes isolated in their Oakland medical complex.”
“And let’s be clear, UPMC’s expansion and expenditure of several hundred million dollars for a new hospital in Monroeville is not only unnecessary but it will result in the closing of Southside, Braddock, and McKeesport Hospital services. We need to rally support against this expansion plan and cutback in services. We also need to look at creating state-wide “certificate of need” legislation and require that new hospital construction and major expenditures be reviewed and approved by a governmental body and not left open to the whims of the ‘free market.'”
“UPMC likes to claim it’s all about serving the community and providing the best health care available, but its actions tell a different story. Whether its closing hospitals or how it treats its housecleaning personnel, it’s clear that this supposed nonprofit corporation is all about the bottom line,” said rally organizer Ed Cloonan.
“It doesn’t add up,” said Denise Edwards, Member, Wilkinsburg Borough Council. “In the name of ‘cost cutting’ UPMC buys land in Monroeville which already has a high quality hospital (Forbes Regional) and is planning cancer centers in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, while slashing a small drug rehabilitation center for women and babies here at home. Maybe the creeping health care monopoly that is UPMC has become too large to run efficiently.”
“To eliminate a recovery facility that actually works, that gives women and their children a chance, is the worst sort of management, in a time when we are being called on to care for each other in new ways,” said Mary Louise McCullough, Pastor, Sixth Presbyterian Church. “How can we believe anything UPMC says about itself in its corporate advertising, when we see something like the House of Hope disappear?”
“The House of Hope is a good corporal and spiritual work of mercy that is especially needed in Braddock,” said Father Doug Boyd, Chaplain at UPMC Braddock.