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Weinstein retiring as president, CEO of Washington Health System

Gary Weinstein was in a reflective mood Tuesday morning, and why not. It’s been a prosperous 38 years.

“Expansion, I think, is the most important thing we’ve done, but it hasn’t been expansion for expansion sake,” he said. “We’ve gone from being the hospital on the hill that provided acute care to a system that has reached out to the community and provided better and more complete services.”

In calculated fashion, Washington Hospital morphed into Washington Health System over time, adding outpatient, diagnostic and children’s centers, partnerships with outside health care organizations and more. Oh, and a second hospital, WHS Greene.

Weinstein has been an integral part of so much of this, especially during the past nine years as president and chief executive officer. And he will continue being so ... for the next 19 days.

From his office inside the hospital on the hill, Weinstein announced Tuesday he will retire effective June 30.

Brook Ward, the current executive vice president and chief operating officer, will succeed him in those positions, and Rodney Louk, a 37-year employee, will succeed Ward as VP and COO, while continuing as chief information officer. He oversees all operations of the system.

This was not a difficult decision for Weinstein, 68, a Philadelphia area native who followed Telford Thomas as president and CEO in June 2010.

“I’d always projected myself as retiring between 65 and 70,” Weinstein said, adding that he set a date for this “a couple of years ago” without telling anyone outside his professional and personal inner circles.

“This has been my second family for a long time. I will miss a lot about this. But I have no mixed feelings about the health system. The future looks great. Brook is superbly prepared to not only keep the systems going, but to take it to new heights.”

Succeeding Weinstein will not be a new experience for Ward, who relocated from Kalamazoo, Mich., nine years ago to assume Weinstein’s prior positions as executive VP and COO.

“My initial thoughts are that Gary could stay as long as he wants,” Ward said, smiling. “I’m extremely proud to be moving into this position. I can’t say there will be extreme changes in direction. We have tremendous physicians, employees and board members here.”

But some developments are ahead. Ward said the health system will be adding some cardiology-related services “hopefully in September or October.” Additional changes include a labor and delivery floor targeted to open in November at Washington Hospital, the system’s flagship.

Ward, who grew up and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Michigan, is eager to handle his new assignments – but not overly eager.

“I’m trying to go into this in a very calm manner,” the South Strabane Township resident said. “I want us to continue to do things that are best for patients every day. If we keep our focus on that, we will do OK.”

Louk’s focus had been on thoughts of retirement, but he not only has put that off, he is picking up responsibilities.

“Brook and I discussed things and I decided to stay a little longer,” said Louk, who lives in Wintersville, Ohio. “It’s exciting to help Brook and our family here.”

He has certainly gotten the new president’s endorsement. “Rodney is extremely prepared for this job,” Ward said.

Changes at the top of WHS are less than three weeks away, and the respective parties are poised. Two will remain on board, one will depart. For Weinstein, retirement will be another chapter in what has been an interesting life.

He grew up near Philly, where he played basketball in high school before securing a bachelor’s at Bucknell University and a master’s from the prestigious Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. And, as a young man, he did something extremely selfless and inspiring: serving as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years, teaching junior high students in Ethiopia.

Weinstein married a Monroeville woman, Maryann, who is now a retired family physician. They reside in East Washington and will have more time to devote to their three married children and three grandchildren.

“I’m still pretty active athletically, with basketball and tennis,” said Weinstein, who really did say basketball. “I’ll probably do some volunteering and I enjoy reading. I’ve done a lot of that with health care and leadership. Now it will be more history and fiction.”

Ward is partially lamenting his predecessor’s pending absence, but realizes that Weinstein is a mere speed dial away.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to Gary, thank him for his years of service and wish him luck in retirement. And we hope he answers the phone if we have a question.”

Associated Press 

Associated Press

This photo provided by America’s Test Kitchen shows Shredded Beef Tacos. This recipe appears in the cookbook “How to Braise Everything.”

Fire chief retires after 37 years in Peters Township

For the first time in 37 years, Peters Township Fire Department has a new chief.

Daniel Coyle, who joined the department in 1977, participated in a change-of-command ceremony during Monday’s township council meeting, during which Michael McLaughlin Jr. took the oath as new chief.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter 

Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter

Michael McLaughlin is the new Peters Township Fire Department chief.

Taking McLaughlin’s position as deputy chief was David Caputo, who was promoted from captain.

Prior to his retirement, Coyle oversaw the expansion of the department to accommodate growth in the township, the population of which has risen by more than 50 percent since 1990.

“He’s also overseen the transition of the fire department from a private entity stocked with volunteers and consisting of both paid firefighters and volunteers,” Frank Kosir Jr., council chairman, said. “Throughout all those changes, one thing has remained consistent. The chief has always been steadfast in his dedication to his men and his women. He has always represented this township with dignity and with honor.”

Coyle said he has been proud to serve the township and acknowledged municipal leaders for their roles in helping the department keep up with the needs of the community.

“It’s been a huge responsibility, and within that, you’re constantly looking for someone who can be the next guy to stand up. And I believe that we have that person in Mike McLaughlin,” Coyle asserted. “I’m sure he’ll do a fine job.

McLaughlin called his new position an honor.

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter 

Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter

Frank Kosir Jr., Peters Township Council chairman, presents Daniel Coyle with a badge commemorating his retirement.

“In some municipalities, it’s the title of someone who gets voted in every year by the fire company, and this position can change quite frequently,” he said. “In Peters Township, it’s been 37 years since our last chief took office, and in that 37 years, the title of fire chief has grown to mean so much more than just the person in charge of the fire department.

“Chief Coyle has helped make this position into an extremely prestigious figure within our great municipality,” McLaughlin continued. “The men and women sitting in front of me, and the many others who served in this community as firefighters, are also reasons why this position is held so highly.”

Coyle handed over his command by pinning the chief’s badge on McLaughlin’s jacket.

“And with that, as Chuck Noll said, it’s time for me to go on with my life’s work,” he said. “Family’s a big thing to me, and my extended family, the fire department: That’s what I’ll miss the most, is the people.”

Harry Funk / Harry Funk/Observer-Reporter 

Chief Michael McLaughlin, left, and Deputy Chief David Caputo

editor's pick
Casey defends Medicaid upon release of report on the program

Usually noted for his placid demeanor and nods to bipartisanship, Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Bob Casey fiercely defended Medicaid in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, vowing that he would not work with any lawmakers who want to slash the program.

“I’m a very reasonable person,” Casey said, but vowed to use “any means possible” to stop Republican attempts to “sabotage” Medicaid.

“I will oppose them to the ends of the Earth,” said Casey, a Democrat.

Casey made his comments in support of a report from the advocacy group Protect Our Care which argues that the Medicaid expansion that occurred under the Affordable Care Act has broadly improved health outcomes and lowered costs. Since the Affordable Care Act was approved in 2010, 36 states and the District of Colombia have signed on to the Medicaid expansion, and, according to Protect Our Care, 12.7 million people have gained coverage.

The report also says that states that expanded Medicaid coverage saw their rates of uninsured residents decrease by 6.7 percent, while states that opted out of the Medicaid expansion saw their rates fall by only 4.3 percent. The report from Protect Our Care also says Medicaid expansion has expanded treatment for opioid use disorder and reduced racial disparities in health care.

“Medicaid expansion has made Americans healthier,” said Brad Woodhouse, Protect Our Care’s executive director. “It is an unqualified success.”

The Trump administration attempted to repeal the Affordable Care in 2017, falling one vote short in the Senate, and has expressed support for a December ruling by a federal judge in Texas that found the law unconstitutional. The administration has also proposed slowing Medicaid spending over the next decade, and, perhaps, making it a block grant program to states.

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has described Medicaid growth as “unsustainable,” and that “abundant evidence suggests that new enrollees are not experiencing health improvements to justify the dramatic increase in cost.”

In the conference call, Casey also said Medicaid is one program that unites the commonwealth’s sometimes disparate urban and rural communities.

“Medicaid is not a ‘them’ program,” he said. “It’s an ‘us’ program.”

editor's pick
Plant operator, contractor cited following MarkWest Houston fire

The federal Department of Labor intends to fine a Marathon Petroleum Corp. subsidiary and a West Virginia company tens of thousands of dollars each for failing to follow safety procedures and other violations at the MarkWest Houston natural gas processing plant, where a fire injured four workers – one of whom later died of his injuries – late last year.

The agency said Tuesday that inspections by its Occupational Safety and Health Administration the day after the Dec. 13 fire turned up purported violations that led officials to propose fines of more than $51,000 against Bridgeport, W.Va.-based Energy Transportation and more than $47,000 against MW Logistics, which operates the Chartiers Township plant for Marathon.

Jeffrey Fisher, 61, of Salem, W.Va., died in a Pittsburgh hospital less than a week after he and three fellow employees of Energy Transportation LLC were hospitalized with burns after an explosion occurred while they were cleaning lines and vessels at the MarkWest plant.

Records show flammable vapors escaped while they worked at the de-ethanizer pad, where static electricity, various trucks that were running with hot heater coils on some of them, heater exhaust, a hot water pipe on one of the trucks and a nearby air heater could have ignited them.

The companies – which are both identified in OSHA records as being nonunion – have 15 days from the citations’ June 6 issuance to decide whether to pay or contest the penalties.

“It was just a one-off job that we were doing up there that we were contracted to do,” said Andria Alvarez Wymer, director of strategic initiatives for Energy Transportation.

She wouldn’t discuss the substance of the citations, but said the company had worked with OSHA in the investigation and made unspecified improvements to its procedures.

She went on to describe her employer as having a “great safety culture.”

“Whatever comes down from OSHA, we’re going to continue to grow our safety culture within our organization,” she said.

OSHA officials accused the company of violating various portions of federal labor law, including by failing to ensure all its employees followed safety procedures and knew about hazards, and by failing to provide them a workplace free of hazards that could cause death or serious injury.

Citations documents say alleged violations by MW Logistics include not establishing written safety procedures for cleaning equipment and failing to inspect energy control procedures at the facility at least every year.

Marathon’s company MPLX became the owner of the plant in Chartiers when it acquired MarkWest in 2015.

“Protecting the health and safety of workers and the communities where we operate is our highest priority,” Marathon spokesman Jamal Kheiry said in an email, “and we have been, and continue, working cooperatively with our contractor, as well as federal, state and local agencies to investigate the incident at our Houston, Pennsylvania, facility last December.”