I read with interest Dr. Christopher Olivia's open letter "to the residents of Western Pennsylvania." However, having been a member of the Department of Psychiatry at Allegheny General Hospital and a senior attending there for more than 20 years, I found his concerns regarding the "need to act in the best interests of the communities that we serve" disingenuous.
For the last 25 years, Allegheny General Hospital has maintained an excellent inpatient psychiatric unit to serve the needs of the North Side and North Hills communities. In June, Dr. Olivia, CEO of the West Penn Allegheny Health System, made the decision to close this unit. As a result, the WPAHS no longer provides inpatient psychiatric services within the city of Pittsburgh, and patients will need to receive care at Forbes Regional Hospital in Monroeville.
Concurrently, WPAHS decided to move the obstetrics and gynecology department to Western Pennsylvania Hospital, depriving the people of the North Side this valuable resource as well.
My understanding is that this will serve the goal of converting Allegheny General Hospital into a specialty care site, which will then enhance revenue. Rather than serving community needs as a "nonprofit charity," it is my opinion that Dr. Olivia and the WPAHS are attempting to improve the system's bottom line by eschewing vital primary care for the North Side citizens in favor of high-cost services, many of which are already provided by UPMC across the river. This will virtually eliminate Allegheny General's long-standing role as a community hospital.
As a proud member of the WPAHS medical staff, I agree that "real lives and the future of a community hang in the balance." I only wish that Dr. Olivia would follow his own advice.
KENNETH GOETZ, M.D.
Allegheny General Hospital