Even though their community hospital is gone, Braddock residents gathered outside the new UPMC East hospital in Monroeville today to protest the facility's grand opening. The protesters complain that the old Braddock hospital was closed to make way for the new hospital. They see it as swapping healthcare for poor and minorities in exchange for healthcare for well-off suburbanites.
"They wanted to come to a place where there was insurance and they could make money," said Braddock resident Jim Kidd. Kidd was among about 20 protesters who stood on the street outside of the new hospital holding signs and shouting into a bullhorn.
UPMC East is less than two miles away from Forbes regional Medical Center, which is run by UPMC's competitor, the West Penn Allegheny Health System. UPMC said this is not about competition, it is about "spreading out and smoothing the demand for UPMC services across our system."
Kidd said he was at the rally to be a "burr under UPMC's saddle," and he will be a burr for as long as he can. "A closed mouth never gets fed, so we are out here opening our mouths and saying things about the way we think things should be," Kidd said.
While some of the protesters continue to hold out hope that UPMC will decide to open a new facility in Braddock, others, like Carmella Mullen, said they were there to make sure the region's largest private employer does not make this a pattern.
"We feel in our hearts that McKeesport is going to be next," said Mullen. "Once [UPMC East] gets up and going they are going to use excuses that [McKeesport] is not making their numbers… We just see that as a pattern in community hospitals."
UPMC argued that UPMC Braddock was losing millions of dollars a year. Protesters pointed to the system's hospital in Ireland, which is losing money and is not being closed. Others said UPMC could have kept Braddock open for decades with the $250 million used to build the new 156-bed hospital.