Despite planned mass layoffs, hospital CEO optimistic for future

Pittsburgh-based West Penn Allegheny Health System, which announced plans earlier this summer to lay off nearly 1,500 of its 13,000 workers over the next year in an attempt to stay afloat financially, also will look to put more emphasis on ambulatory centers vs. inpatient care in large buildings, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

President and CEO Dr. Christopher Olivia told the media this week that, while "painful," every step being taken is necessary to securing the health system's future. "It's going to be a tough year," Olivia said. "[B]ut if we do it the right way we'll come out a much stronger organization on the back end."

WPAHS won't post fiscal 2010 financial results until October, but for the first three quarters of fiscal 2010, the health system posted a $7.2 million net profit, along with an $11.6 million operating loss. Consequently, both Moody's Investors Service and Standard & Poor downgraded its bond ratings.

Olivia, though, maintains WPAHS is performing better financially than in previous years. In fact, he asserts that fiscal 2010 has been West Penn Allegheny's strongest since the health system's formation. "That's been enough to get us stable, but not secure."

West Penn Allegheny is aiming to improve its bond rating to investment grade this decade, according to the Post-Gazette. That timeframe is a "conservative, reasonable prediction," given consolidation-related costs and capital needs, healthcare attorney Andy Thurman told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

In spite of everything, Olivia remains encouraged. "For some reason, there's an element in this community that wants to promote our death," he said. "We've come a long way. I'm heartened by the progress, but we still have much to do."

For more:
- read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
- here's the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article