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UAHS Beginning Strategic Initiative to Ensure Sustainable Quality Care in Region

Posted on: 01/06/2021

OLEAN, NY/BRADFORD, PA – Jan. 6, 2021 – Today Upper Allegheny Health System (UAHS) announced a strategic initiative to ensure sustainable, long-term healthcare for its expansive, two-state service community. The plan reflects current realities facing the healthcare sector, as well as courage to proactively adapt, change, and become even stronger to deliver quality healthcare, including access to doctors and sophisticated treatments, right here in our region which has nearly 140,000 residents.

UAHS and its member hospitals, Bradford Regional Medical Center (BRMC) and Olean General Hospital (OGH), will be restructuring its current service model in order to create a stronger, more viable regional system, and to develop centers of excellence.

UAHS planned to consolidate its acute care and surgical services to the Olean campus, April 1, 2021, with the exception of 10 medical beds, which will remain in service at BRMC. However, the April 1 date is subject to change depending on the COVID-19 pandemic. UAHS will not implement the plan so long as the pandemic significantly impacts hospitals, staff and resources.

Bradford Regional Medical Center and Olean General Hospital formally merged in 2018 and are one hospital on two campuses under UAHS, affiliated with Kaleida Health, the largest health system in Western New York.

Under the center of excellence model, Upper Allegheny Health System with its parent Kaleida Health, will leverage its existing high-end specialty capabilities, which are unique for a rural hospital system. The plan calls for the UAHS Bradford campus to offer emergency care, and develop centers of excellence in outpatient services, behavioral health and long-term care/rehab (Pavilion services) – services which exist today. Its Emergency Department is in the top 10% in patient satisfaction. The UAHS Bradford campus will continue to grow its expansive network of primary care and specialty providers throughout the region. Its behavioral health unit has served the community for 40 years and is the only unit to offer dual diagnosis in the region. Recently both sleep and occupational health services consolidated from the UAHS Olean General campus to the Bradford Regional campus.

High-end services offered to the Twin Tier region at the UAHS Olean General campus include Interventional cardiac catheterization laboratory - which operates jointly with Kaleida Health’s Gates Vascular Institute, its neurology program and designation as a stroke center, its ICU intensivist program, radiation oncology, vascular services, orthopedic surgery, wound care including hyperbaric therapy and dialysis services put UAHS into the company of major urban medical centers.

UAHS commissioned an Improvement Task Force consisting of board members (who are volunteer community leaders), senior administrators, Kaleida Health leadership, and a healthcare consulting group. The task force’s vision includes investments in growth initiatives, including better access to care across UAHS’s full service area. Growth in service lines, telehealth, outpatient care, and physician services are critical parts of this plan.
“At UAHS, we cherish our strong local hospital system”, said Jeff Belt, Chair of UAHS. “But, healthcare is constantly changing. Most notably, sophisticated, specialized procedures and emergency interventions have the power to save lives and preserve quality of life. Our communities need this transformation in order to maintain and grow access to a first class medical system.”

“Many healthcare systems across the U.S. have shifted toward the centers of excellence model,” Belt said. “This model is needed in order to aggregate the teams of specialists, plus sophisticated technology and facilities that are needed to deliver state-of-the-art medical care.”

“I’m grateful that our board and our Improvement Task Force responded to the challenges ahead with a vision for the future of care in our communities,” said UAHS President & CEO Jeff Zewe, R.N. “There are some substantial changes to be made, and we do not take the resulting impacts lightly, but this new care model is truly designed to improve overall effectiveness and ensure the delivery of services to our neighbors and the region for decades to come.”

“Success has been particularly challenging for rural hospitals nationwide over the last several years due to declining populations and a variety of other factors including inadequate reimbursement, recruitment challenges, competition, unaffordable duplication of services and hospitals which have too many beds for the populations they serve,” Zewe said. “Data confirms that population continues to decline in the UAHS service area. Therefore, the system needs to reduce the total number of beds for in-patient services. On the other hand, sophisticated outpatient procedures and services represent a growth opportunity,” he said.

“We understand that this decision will cause concerns. Change is difficult, even when it is change for the good”, Belt said. “We will do all we can to smooth the bumps on our path forward so that our Hospital System employees, and the population we serve can realize the benefits of expanded access to sophisticated treatments right here in our twin-tier region.”

Belt reiterated that plan implementation is dependent on pandemic status. “We will not implement the plan while the pandemic poses a threat,” he said.

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