Health care facilities seek Local Share funds

January 14, 2013
The Courthouse Square building in Washington, home of Washington County government - Barbara S. Miller / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Gary Weinstein, chief executive officer of Washington Hospital, was quick to point out this was not deja vu all over again.

On Monday, he and the CEOs of Washington County’s two other hospitals appealed jointly to the Washington County Redevelopment Authority for money from the county’s Local Share Account – as they did three years ago. And, like 2010, they sought $1 million per facility over three years to upgrade a similar program at each.

But this time, instead of striving to enhance electronic record-keeping, their reason for requesting funds was to improve their medical imaging programs.

“The top three diseases that are treated in Washington County are cancer, diabetes and heart disease,” said Terry Wiltrout, CEO of Canonsburg General Hospital. “Each hospital has a plan to upgrade its imaging to improve diagnosis.”

Weinstein, Wiltrout and Louis Panza, their colleague counterpart at Monongahela Valley Hospital, made a joint pitch to the 11-member share account committee Monday in the Courthouse Square Office Building in Washington. It was the first of two days of hearings, which will conclude today, from organizations seeking funds from the four-year-old program. The money became available for economic and community development projects from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino.

About $26.6 million in funds – well above the approximate $7 million that will be available – was being sought for 73 projects. Representatives of 44 were heard Monday. At least one person from each organization has two minutes to make a case for the money, and the committee can ask questions for three.

Decisions on organizations that get funds, and whether they receive all that they request, will be made public later, probably in February.

Jeff Kotula, executive director of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, is the committee chair.

Three years ago, Telford Thomas and Kim Malinky were the CEOs at Washington and Canonsburg General, and they joined Panza in their request for the medical imaging funds. During his part of the presentation Monday, Panza spoke about the advantages of having and maintaining three hospitals in the county.

“In addition to the jobs created by our hospitals, a lot of other health-related jobs have been created in the area,” Panza said. “Fifteen hospitals have closed in Western Pennsylvania in the past 15 years. Keeping these three hospitals economically viable is important.”

Washington County Health Center also made a request Monday, for $211,000 to upgrade its medical record-keeping. That is one of several projects totaling $915,000 that are planned at the Chartiers Township facility.

Health center administrator Tim Kimmel pointed out that by 2014, all medical facilities will have to be using electronic health records. Having an updated system that is integrated with other health-related systems is vital to his facility’s operation, he said.

The joint hospital request was one of three projects seeking $1 million-plus Monday. The Independence-Cross Creek Joint Sewer Authority asked for about $2 million for pressure sewer extensions for Cross Creek Village and Independence Village. North Franklin Township was seeking $1.1 million for a bridge replacement project on Franklin Farms Road.

The final 29 presentations are to run from 9 to 11:30 a.m. today. Kotula said the panel will forward its recommendations to the Washington County commissioners.

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 seven individual writing awards, including two Golden Quills.

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