UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) and Washington Health System (WHS) have signed a non-binding letter of intent to negotiate an affiliation agreement that would integrate WHS into the UPMC system.
In late 2022, the WHS board of directors submitted a request for proposals to affiliate with a larger healthcare provider that could enhance its services and clinical offerings.
UPMC already has 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland. Washington Health System provides services centered at its flagship 278-bed hospital in Washington, Pa., and the 49-bed WHS-Greene Hospital in Waynesburg, Pa. WHS provides clinical care at more than 40 off-site locations throughout three counties.
“Our primary focus is to ensure the residents of Washington and Greene Counties have local access to high-quality health care that is sustainable into the future,” said Brook Ward, president and CEO of WHS, in a statement. “After careful consideration and analysis, we believe the best path forward is to affiliate with UPMC to achieve that goal. We currently have numerous clinical arrangements and joint ventures with UPMC, which have provided our patients with exceptional care over the years. From our experience working with UPMC and knowing their track record of providing outstanding patient care, it was an obvious choice to select UPMC as our partner going forward.”
For the past several decades, WHS notes, it has been collaborating with UPMC in several areas including:
- A joint partnership in local cancer treatment, a collaboration with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and based at WHS Washington Hospital.
- UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Express Care clinic and other specialty clinics, also on the campus of WHS Washington Hospital. These have brought specialty pediatric services to the community and have augmented the physicians and advanced practice providers of the Washington Physicians Group.
- UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI) provides vascular surgery services throughout the communities WHS serves.
- Onsite neonatal care provided at every birth by UPMC Children’s Hospital.
- Senior care services provided at Strabane Trails and Strabane Woods.
- OB ultrasounds interpretation services by UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.
- And, additional partnerships in telestroke, Chartwell specialty pharmacy services and Clinical Connect HIE electronic records.
WHS Washington Hospital also was also one of the original members of the UPMC Health Plan when it was launched 26 years ago.
The signing of the letter of intent means WHS and UPMC have agreed to conditions of affiliation. Over the next several months, both entities will engage in due diligence, research and discussions to work towards a definitive agreement.
A news story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes that the deal is likely to face pushback from labor organizations and regulators. “SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, UPMC’s longtime nemesis, fired the first salvo in blocking the health care juggernaut a month before the WHS merger was even announced,” the story said. “A request to the U.S. Department of Justice in May for an investigation into UPMC by the SEIU and the Strategic Organizing Center is a virtual blueprint for challenging UPMC’s acquisition of WHS. Citing UPMC’s record of growing by taking over smaller hospitals, the request for an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices at the health care giant — the biggest private employer in Pennsylvania — said UPMC has a “long and egregious history of labor law violations.”’
The story also noted that the Federal Trade Commission has recently opposed some mergers, such as one proposed in Rhode Island, in part because of the potential harm to labor markets from consolidation.