Group forms to save Braddock Hospital
A working group of community leaders, elected officials and residents from the Braddock area convened last night at Heritage Health to discuss how the community might sway UPMC to reverse its decision to close the hospital there.
Since the hospital system announced the closing of UPMC Braddock, slated for Jan. 31, community members have mobilized efforts to change the hospital’s mind, starting last Thursday with a rally that drew a few hundred people.
The objective of the working group, facilitated by Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, is two-pronged. Its first priority is to lobby UPMC against closing, and its second is to create a contingency plan should the hospital close.
The committee will ultimately include the mayors and presidents of council of North Braddock, Braddock and Rankin; staff from the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills and state legislators. Developer Ralph Falbo, Laura Zinski of the Mon Valley Initiative and Dr. Walter Calinger, superintendent of the Woodland Hills School District, will also provide input.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman, who is on the committee but could not attend the meeting, said if UPMC departs, he hopes the hospital system will help to fund the retrofit of the building. Ideally, he said another hospital would move into the building, but if that can’t happen, he’d like to see a community college campus or a technical school.
At the end of the process, the goal is to pitch a number of proposals to UPMC, with the ultimate goal of keeping the facility occupied.
At a public hearing last Wednesday evening, attended by about 150 people, Mr. Onorato said he planned to ask the state to keep the $3 million in state grants allocated to the hospital to move its front entrance to Braddock Avenue and beautify its façade to stay in Braddock.
He also said he would reject UPMC’s offer to turn over the building to the county.
Residents at the public hearing offered their own suggestions for what might be done with the facility. Some suggested opening a center for new businesses or an after-school youth program in the facility.