Government & Politics
7:26 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Health Activists Ask Ravenstahl, Fitzgerald to Make UPMC "Act Like Charity"

Religious leaders, healthcare activists, and UPMC employees gathered in Downtown today to deliver a “Code of Conduct for a Strong, Healthy Pittsburgh” to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The code of conduct urges UPMC to do more to support local communities and provide affordable care to everyone.

Erin Ninehouser, Education and Outreach Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (one of the groups supporting the code), said UPMC only spends about two percent of its revenue on charity care.

She said it’s time for UPMC to invest back into the community.

“The big message is that we have high standards of purely public charities for a reason because there are special benefits that those institutions gain from all of us as taxpayers and employees that finance those benefits,” said Ninehouser. So, we want UPMC to understand that being a public charity is a privilege, not a right, and they need to show that they’re worthy of the benefits that we’re bestowing on them as taxpayers.”

Ninehouser said there are four points the code of conduct advises UPMC to follow:

  • Guaranteeing equal and affordable access to UPMC’s facilities.
  • Directing UPMC to pay more towards supporting public services.
  • Respecting employees’ rights and supporting sustainable jobs.
  • Promoting community health by investing in preventative and primary care rather than high-end care.

Ninehouser said one in three adults in Allegheny County reported having gone without routine healthcare in the past year.

She said they’d also like to see UPMC employees get more support.

“Hearing stories of UPMC workers talking about how, after they would get treatment at a UPMC facility, they’d be struggling with bills months down the line because their wages are so low, (and) they haven’t gotten a significant raise in so long.”

Ninehouser said both Mayor Ravenstahl and County Executive Fitzgerald have been helpful in the process so far.

She said both have the ability to make a difference in UPMC’s actions, but wouldn't say what authority Fitzgerald and Ravenstahl have to require UPMC to spend more on charity care.

UPMC has not responded to requests for comment.

State Senator Wayne Fontana (D-Pittsburgh) has introduced legislation that would require some larger non-profits to pay real estate taxes on the assessed value of land owned by their organization.