Public review: UPMC's Shadyside care center deserves an airing

Written by Susan Mannella on .

TThe trouble with being the big kid on the block is that everyone else pays attention to what you're doing.

In the case of UPMC Shadyside, its plans for an urgent care center across Centre Avenue from its main campus has attracted suspicion from a City Council member and neighborhood associations including the Shadyside Action Coalition and the Baum-Centre Initiative.

The hospital says it has met all of the legal requirements to convert a former center for criminal offenders into a treatment center, which could provide the sort of care that should not warrant a visit to the emergency room and, in so doing, would be a more efficient use of health-care dollars and resources. UPMC says it already has made some accommodations to address neighborhood concerns, including changing the entrance, improving landscaping, replacing a fence and reducing the size of a sign.

Not so fast, counters Councilman Bill Peduto, who believes the project constitutes an expansion of UPMC Shadyside and, therefore, warrants a more detailed public process. No, UPMC says this project is not an expansion of the hospital. And so it goes, leaving a distinction that instead of being hashed out in public probably will be hashed out among the lawyers.

UPMC should not have to clear more hurdles than similar entities operating in the city, but it should not be able to sidestep any rules either.

UPMC Shadyside has agreed to participate in a Dec. 8 zoning hearing, which will allow citizens to make their concerns known. But the medical system also says it has no intention to slow down its plans to open the center on Dec. 14, not coincidentally before the planned February opening of a rival facility, MedExpress, a block away.

The neighbors should be glad that UPMC says it will take part in the hearing. But we have to question how respectful of this public airing it intends to be if it vows to open the center a week later anyway.


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