It’s a new day

Dr. Donald Leathers speaks at the event to mark the affiliation of Susquehanna Health and UPMC.

Susquehanna Health officials applauded an affiliation with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center as an improved model of health care that they say will mean better outreach to and care for patients, more quality services and reduced costs.

Officials from both health care systems gathered Tuesday at Williamsport Regional Medical Center for the official signing that brings together the two organizations.

“Susquehanna Health becomes a member of the UPMC family,” said Ann Pepperman, chairwoman of the UPMC Susquehanna Board of Directors. “Bringing with it tremendous benefits and tremendous opportunities.”

In May, Susquehanna announced a letter of intent to affiliate with UPMC following a search to find an organization supportive of the health system’s long-term goals.

Pepperman said finding the right partner included proposals from 37 hospitals or health systems.

Steven Johnson, president UPMC Susquehanna, speaks at the event to mark the affiliation of Susquehanna Health and UPMC.

“This was not a strategy born of necessity,” she said, noting that Susquehanna already has many talented medical professionals and quality services in place.

Rather, the affiliation will only mean better all-around health care.

Leslie C. Davis, chief operating officer, Health Services Division, UPMC, said both institutions have in common a commitment to the communities they serve.

She noted that UPMC affiliations with other health care systems have meant increased services and patient care in local communities.

For example, UPMC Harmot in Erie has resulted in an 11 percent decrease for local residents leaving Eric County for care elsewhere since that affiliation five years ago.

Leslie Davis, senior vice president and executive vice president and chief operating officer-Health Services Division, UPMC speaks at the event to mark the affiliation of Susquehanna Health and UPMC.

In addition, during the first three years of UPMC Altoona, added specialty services there have included a transplant clinic, a breast center, a telemedicine center, as well as specialists in cardiac care, orthopaedics, pediatrics and women’s health.

“When we bring a hospital or hospital system into the UPMC network, we make it better,” Davis


Johnson said he likes UPMC for its relentless focus on caring for patients.

The decision to join with UMPC will help target Susquehanna’s long-term vision of bringing to the region another insurance option, an improvement to emergency services, expanded patient access and convenience, and a reduction in health care costs, he said.

Johnson said the plan is to maintain the present insurance carriers, while introducing UPMC’s carrier as well.

He said he does not foresee health care services presently in place at Susquehanna being outsourced.

“In fact, we see more services,” he said.

Overall, UPMC is making a $500 million investment in the newly named UPMC Susquehanna with initial areas of focus being expansion of emergency, heart and vascular, and cancer services, according to officials.

Other priorities involve establishing a neurosciences center of excellence, improving access to care with an urgent care network, and replacing an inpatient rehabilitation facility built in the 1960s.

Dr. Donald Leathers, a pathologist and medical director of the Susquehanna Health laboratory, said he was impressed by the “systematic and detailed” partnership selection process, noting that the “cultural compatibility” between Susquehanna and potential partners was foremost in any decision.

“Of all the potential partners we evaluated, UPMC stood out as the one institution that shared all our cultural values, including an absolute commitment to clinical excellence,” he said.