Ribbon cutting

Rick Shrum/Observer-Reporter

Participants in a ceremonial ribbon-cutting over the summer head inside for tours of the new WVU Medicine center in Franklin Township.

WVU Medicine announced two initiatives Monday morning that will expand its Southwestern Pennsylvania portfolio.

West Virginia University Health System, operating under the name WVU Medicine, reported it is expanding services at the Franklin Township outpatient center it opened four months ago, and even more significantly, Uniontown Hospital has signed a letter of intent to join it.

WVU Medicine Children’s will open a general pediatrics clinic next Monday at the Greene facility on Murtha Drive. Patient convenience is a driving force behind the inclusion of pediatrics.

“We already have a number of families from Waynesburg and Greene County who bring their children to Morgantown for appointments with our pediatricians ... demand for those services has been steadily increasing,” said Amy Bush-Marone, WVU Medicine Children’s chief operating officer, in a news release.

Physicians Adriana Diakiw, Janani Narumanchi and Isabela Negrin will see patients in Greene. Hours there will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For an appointment, call 855-WVU-CARE.

Uniontown Hospital also announced the letter of intent Monday, deepening a relationship with the health system that began when the hospital parted ways with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center last year.

The goal for both sides is for Uniontown Hospital to become a full member hospital within the WVU Health System by the beginning of 2021. Both sides hope to enter into a clinical affiliation management services agreement this spring Uniontown Hospital and WVU Health System executives said will lay the groundwork for the hospital’s full membership in the system, which operates under the WVU Medicine brand.

“(We want) to sustain service in our community, and that’s what we believe our relationship with WVU does,” Uniontown Hospital CEO Steve Handy said.

Albert L. Wright Jr., chief executive officer and president of WVU Health System, said the merger was a good thing for his organization.

“I think this is a great day for WVU Medicine,” he said. “I think this is a great day for Uniontown and Fayette County. You’ve got my promise that we’re going to be good partners with you up there.”

WVU Medicine has staffed the hospital’s inpatient emergency department and hospitalist physician services since July, taking those roles over from UPMC after a seven-year physician relationship between UPMC and Uniontown Hospital ended June 30.

Wright said for Uniontown Hospital and WVU Medicine the clinical affiliation agreement would result in more WVU Medicine branding for the hospital prior to full membership within WVU Health System. Handy said it would allow time to hash out the finer points of full membership.

“We’re a $150 million operation with 1,200 employees,” Handy said. “It takes time to work out the details.”

Both Wright and Handy likened the clinical affiliation agreement to a wedding engagement.

“This would be the equivalent of putting an engagement ring on a partner,” Wright said. “… We’re going to work together in a unified way toward a marriage.”

Any nuptials between Uniontown Hospital and WVU Medicine would have to come after approval from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General since the hospital is a nonprofit organization, Handy and Wright acknowledged.

Uniontown Hospital announced last January it was exploring a partnership with WVU Medicine.

The WVU Health System is West Virginia’s largest health system and largest private employer, composed of 11 owned hospitals that Wright said would increase to 12 with Wetzel County Hospital in New Martinsville, W.Va., and 13 with Uniontown Hospital.

Handy said WVU Medicine will take on Uniontown Hospital’s roughly $40 million debt and provide crucial aid in physician staffing.

Handy will become an employee of WVU Hospitals along with other senior leaders at Uniontown, but Handy said the hospital’s six-member executive council will continue to oversee day-to-day operations at the hospital.

WVU Medicine’s plans to open a 25,000-square-foot outpatient facility on the grounds of the Sisters of St. Basil in North Union Township are on hold, according to Wright, who said WVU Medicine did not have its planned partnership with Uniontown Hospital in place when it began working on that project.

“We paused that until we know exactly what we need long-term up in Uniontown,” Wright said.

WVU Medicine opened an obstetrics clinic with an obstetrician and a midwife at 211 Easy St. in Uniontown last month.

Handy and Wright said a partnership between their organizations could lead to expanded medical services, although a reopened birthing center is unlikely.

“I think most of the doctors there today will continue to practice there,” Wright said.

Business Writer

Rick Shrum joined the Observer-Reporter as a reporter in 2012, after serving as a section editor, sports reporter and copy editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rick has won eight individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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