Residents of Braddock, Pennsylvania, a working-class suburb of Pittsburg, won a victory when state officials temporarily halted the demolition of the community’s only hospital. Residents also filed a class-action lawsuit last week to permanently halt their hospital’s demolition.
Save Our Community Hospital, the group mobilizing support to reopen the hospital, has set up a round the clock vigil at the hospital to protest its demolitions and is urging supporters to contact Jeffery Romoff, 412/647-3555 to demand that the hospital be saved.
Romoff is the CEO of the University of Pittsburg Medical Center, which until January operated Braddock hospital and which has ordered the demolition of the hospital.
Braddock’s plight began more than 30 years ago when US Steel closed its Braddock mill and laid off thousands of residents. The loss of jobs led to an exodus of people, and community’s fortunes have gone downhill ever since.
Fourteen years ago there was some hope that Braddock could revive its fortunes when the University of Pittsburg Medical Center bought the local hospital. UPMC became Braddock’s biggest employer and the hub of economic redevelopment.
But last year UPMC announced that it would close its Braddock hospital. Residents rallied to keep it open, but UPMC shut down the hospital in January 2010.
Residents continued the fight demanding that UPMC reopen the hospital or at least find a new operator. They argued that many Braddock residents are elderly, low-income workers and retirees, who rely heavily on public transportation and would have difficulty finding other healthcare facilities to take the place of UPMC.
Residents also filed a civil rights complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services charging that many of the low-income workers in the community are African-American who will have a much harder time getting healthcare if the hospital closes.
In September HHS announced that UPMC agreed to a settlement that would require the company to assist Braddock residents find alternative access to healthcare but would not require it to reopen the hospital.
In October UPMC, began demolition of the hospital, but SOCH asked state officials to review the demolition permit. After doing so, state officials temporarily halted the demolition.
SOCH also has begun a round the clock vigil to keep the hospital intact and has filed a class-action lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the closure.
UPMC has said that it closed the hospital because it was under used. SOCH found that the hospital use was still high, especially for some of the specialized services that the hospital provides.
UPMC, which is supposedly a nonprofit healthcare provider, seems to be more interested in making money than providing healthcare. While it closed its Braddock hospital, it began construction on another hospital in Monroeville, an affluent suburb of Pittsburg, and it embarked on a $16 million ad campaign to refurbish its brand and attract more customers.