At a legislative hearing in Erie last week, the CEO of UPMC, Jeffrey Romoff, said there's no way UPMC will negotiate a new contract with Highmark. Local Highmark customers are worried that they will not have access to UPMC-Hamot after 2013.
You would think the rift would be a great thing for Erie's other hospital, St. Vincent.
"No. It really isn't," says St. Vincent President & CEO Scott Whalen. "What's critically important, I think, for the community overall, is for the community to have choice. And I think that if we end up in a system where we don't have access to both facilities, I don't think the community benefits."
In any event, Whalen says his hospital is prepared for an influx of new patients if a contract between UPMC and Highmark is not negotiated.
"We already have physical capacity to meet the needs of patients who would be diverted or unable to access UPMC," he said.
Also, St. Vincent entered an agreement with the Cleveland Clinic to send patients there who need medical procedures not available in Erie.
"Our data, our patients, had indicated to us that they had a better preference, or more of a preference, for the Cleveland market, than the Pittsburgh market, for quaternary care," Whalen said.
Highmark already is in constant communications with St. Vincent to make sure the hospital has everything the insurance company expects if a contract with UPMC is not reached. But for St. Vincent administrators, and local Highmark customers, all they can do, is wait.
The rift between UPMC and Highmark began after Highmark decided to take over the West Penn/Allegheny hospital system in Pittsburgh. Highmark and St. Vincent officials say there are no plans for Highmark to acquire St. Vincent.