Braddock citizens ready to rally
By Tim Puko
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
UPMC Braddock hospital advocates hold out hope that court maneuvers, a national TV appearance and protests could stop its closing this week, even as Allegheny County officials consider razing the building.
County Councilman Charles McCullough won an injunction hearing this afternoon to possibly block Sunday's closing. Other last-ditch efforts include a protest Saturday, and promises from Braddock residents to boycott University of Pittsburgh Medical Center insurance or other services beyond Sunday.
"We have to fight this monster," Braddock resident Pat Morgan said. "This is a life-or-death situation for many people. You have to stand up and say, 'It's wrong, it's wrong, it's wrong.' Maybe you stand up and say it enough times and somebody hears it."
McCullough and hospital advocate Tony Buba said County Executive Dan Onorato told Braddock residents at a community meeting Monday a consultant determined that demolishing the 123-bed hospital to build a two-story clinic and assisted-living center likely would be cheaper than retrofitting it.
County spokeswoman Megan Dardanell declined to confirm details, citing negotiations with UPMC. She could not say when officials might release the report.
It estimated that maintaining the building could cost $10 million to $20 million, Buba and McCullough said. Demolition would cost $6 million, and the county could ask UPMC to pay it. A clinic across the street from the hospital wants to expand and could move in.
UPMC spokesman Paul Wood wouldn't comment on those plans, except to say hospital officials are working with community leaders on the building's future.
UPMC officials announced the decision to close in October, saying the hospital is underutilized. Opponents claim UPMC kept patient numbers low at Braddock by transferring people to other hospitals.
Braddock Mayor John Fetterman appeared on CNN Tuesday, stressing the need for federal stimulus money to help small communities preserve infrastructures. UPMC Braddock hospital has the town's only ATM and cafeteria, and about a quarter of its 600 workers hadn't secured jobs at other UPMC facilities as of Jan. 18, Wood said yesterday.
"(The stimulus program's) greatest potential, I think, could lie ahead in funding these kinds of projects and new ones that arise quickly," Fetterman said. "These are the kind of issues towns across the country are dealing with, and we need that kind of quick, responsive deployment of resources to help us."
Saturday's rally is planned from noon to 2 p.m. across the street from UPMC Braddock. The next community meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday at Immanuel Lutheran Church.