Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Workers’ rights activists and former UPMC employees joined city and state officials in Downtown Pittsburgh Monday to celebrate a ruling that found UPMC violated the National Labor Relations Act.

In a 123-page decision issued Friday, National Labor Relations Administrative Law Judge Mark Carissimi ruled in favor of the Service Employees International Union on 21 issues, including the reinstatement of Ron Oakes, Finley Littlejohn, Jim Staus and Al Turner, who were terminated after engaging in union organizing activities.

Flickr user UNICEF Ethiopia

Scientists are clear on the effects of preterm birth, that is, babies born before 37 weeks. Breathing, hearing and vision problems, difficulty feeding, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays are some of the challenges facing babies born too early.

But on the causes of preterm birth, researchers are less certain.

How Better Communication Can Help Patients Die with Dignity

Nov 6, 2014
Alex Proimos / Flickr

With the recent assisted suicide of a woman in Oregon named Brittany Maynard, we want to talk about how conversations on death and dying are changing, or need to change between medical professionals and terminally ill patients and their families. 

Dr. Robert M. Arnold, professor of medicine and Medical Director at UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute says before the need for assisted suicide comes up, we need to look at how quality of life can be better for people who are terminally ill.

Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital are the first in the region to offer a minimally invasive heart surgery that allows physicians to operate as the heart beats.

The MitraClip is designed to treat degenerative mitral regurgitation (MR), a heart condition where blood flows backwards through the mitral valve, forcing the heart to pump even harder to get the blooding moving in the right direction. MR causes fatigue, shortness of breath and heart failure.

Flickr user Michael Goodin

According to Diane Hupp, chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the neonatal unit at the hospital is running out of space.

“Five years ago, we had 31 neonatal beds. Today, we have over 60 neonates in the hospital and we are busting at the seams,” Hupp said.

That’s one of the challenges caused by the hospital’s rapid growth since its relocation to Lawrenceville in 2009, a challenge that administrators hope can be overcome with a $19 million expansion project announced Wednesday.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Sen. Bob Casey joined UPMC officials Friday to assure the Pittsburgh region that area facilities are equipped to deal with any possible Ebola cases.

This as Gov. Tom Corbett announced that three Pennsylvanians are being monitored for symptoms; they were on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas with the nurse who tested positive for the virus.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has developed a 91 percent accurate genetic test to identify those patients whose prostate cancer is likely to recur. The new knowledge may lead to a clinical test, as well as future drugs and therapies.

Three companies, a nonprofit and a healthcare provider in Allegheny County have been awarded about $844,000 in state grants for alternative-fuel vehicles.

The Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants are meant to help organizations make the switch to compressed natural gas, propane or electric-powered light- to medium-weight fleet vehicles.

Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities was able to snag nearly 500,000 for its Western Pennsylvania Alternative Fuel School Bus Program, which will use $250,000 toward the purchase of 50 propane-powered buses.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

State and local elected officials joined UPMC officials for a ribbon cutting Tuesday on the new Children’s Hospital of UPMC of Pittsburgh South Hills location.

The outpatient facility in South Fayette Township is replacing the current Children’s South in Bethel Park. The new location, with easy access off I-79, is expected to expand access to care.

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department Tuesday announced it has received and publicly posted the final transition plan for consumers affected by the separation of Highmark and UPMC at the end of 2014.

“We’re excited, because now we can bring clarity to the transition plan, we can help members make choices they need to make, and we think it’s an important part of the roadmap for us as we move forward,” said Deborah Rice Johnson, president of Highmark Health Plan.

Starting next year, UPMC will implement a universal influenza immunization policy for all staff working in clinical locations. The current policy strongly encourages employees to get the flu shot. The reason for the new policy is primarily patient safety.

High Point Pittsburgh Project: Future of the Steel Tower?

Aug 14, 2014
Jorge Castro / Flickr

The Empire State Building and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) are famous tourist destinations for viewing their respective cities. Can the U.S. Steel Tower be added to that list?

That's what David Bear, creator of the High Point Pittsburgh Project, is hoping for. He says Pittsburgh should have an observation deck atop the building.

Bear said the Steel Tower was originally built as a luxury heliport. For this reason, the entire roof of the building is barren. Bear, former travel editor for the Post-Gazette, found out just how interesting the roof of the building truly is as he looked in to it for his columns.

The aura of tension around Pennsylvania’s largest employer is slowly dissipating, as the city of Pittsburgh announced Friday that it is dropping its lawsuit against UPMC.

Controlling blood-loss is key when emergency responders on helicopters rush patients with traumatic injuries to the hospital.

That’s why University of Pittsburgh trauma experts are launching a trial to see if the blood-clotting drug,  tranexamic acid (TXA) could save lives by helping medics gain control of internal bleeding.

Eleven patients from a unit at UPMC Presbyterian were moved to other parts of the hospital following the detection of legionella in several sinks in a recently-remodeled area.

There are no confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease, but UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner said the patients were moved as a precautionary measure.

“We are following our normal Legionella monitoring and prevention protocols and expect the unit to reopen soon after proper remediation measures are taken,” Zellner said in a statement.

About 400,000 coronary artery bypass graft surgeries are performed in the U.S. each year, and roughly one in five patients goes on to experience clinical depression. But all that could change because of a telephone.

According to University of Pittsburgh researchers, monitoring patient depression and administering a nurse-led intervention via a phone call bi-weekly not only improves quality of life and mood, but it’s also cost-effective and cost-saving.

Charlee Song / 90.5 WESA News

Hand washing, floor scrubbing, sterilizing instruments--all standard techniques to thwart hospital-acquired infections.  Now UPMC hospitals are evaluating new technology to help prevent infections.  At Passavant Hospital, staff is using a robot to help sanitize a room with ultraviolet-C rays.  Fittingly, the robot’s name is “Violet”.

Dr. Joseph Romano, chairman of the Passavant Hospital Infection Prevention and Control Committee, said "Violet" is turned on after a room has been disinfected in the usual way. 

UPMC and Highmark, A Confusing Truce

Jul 1, 2014
Life Mental Health / Flickr

The announcement of a five-year consent decree brokered by state officials seems to be bringing a truce between Highmark and UPMC. What exactly will the agreement mean for policy holders? State Insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine highlights some of the major aspects of the decree to policyholders who may be experiencing some confusion with these “out of network” hospitals.

Some of UPMC’s most prominent hospitals are not in the network, included Magee Women’s Hospital. Commissioner Consedine says the largest issues surrounding the agreement are not which specialty hospitals will remain open in the network, but rather contingency of those already being treated by UPMC doctors, oncology care, and emergency services.

A blueprint for what Pennsylvania officials hope will be a smooth transition for Highmark Insurance customers currently using UPMC doctors has been agreed to by both non profit organizations but the details have yet to be reached. 

“This as really been a bipartisan approach,” said Highmark CEO David Holmberg who just two weeks ago did not think such a deal was possible.  “This has been about everybody putting their swords down and doing the right things.”

Health care costs continue to rise in the US and part of the reason is inefficiencies throughout the system. That’s according to Everette James, J.D., M.D., director of the Pitt Health Policy Institute and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health. One of the main topics of discussion at the “All Together Better Health VII” Conference in Pittsburgh is how to increase efficiencies in health care.

UPMC St. Margaret used to use alcohol caps for central lines, and with those had a very low infection rates. The use of the caps was discontinued and a disturbing trend emerged.

“When that happened we saw almost a double of our infection rates,” said Jenny  Bender, infection preventionist, now at UPMC Presbyterian, formerly with St. Margaret, “they still weren’t awful but they were way higher than what we were used to seeing, which was zero.”

Gov. Tom Corbett is calling on UPMC and Highmark to put their patients first.

The contract between UPMC and Highmark is set to expire by December 31st, 2014.

UPMC said that it does not intend to extend the contract, which means that Highmark patients will not receive in-network rates for UPMC services.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center says federal investigators now believe all 62,000 of the hospital network's employees have had their personal information accessed by identity thieves who have used information from about 800 workers to file bogus federal tax returns.

UPMC last month believed only 27,000 workers were affected, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Friday that a memo to employees says "the scope may be larger than originally thought, potentially affecting every employee."

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of emergency department visits for traumatic brain injury (TBI) rose by nearly 30 percent throughout the United States. That’s according to a study from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

While there was an increase, researchers are unclear of exactly why.

Allegheny County employees no longer have to wonder about their health care options for 2015.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced Tuesday that the county will exclusively retain Highmark for health care coverage through December 31st, 2015 - even if Highmark and UPMC are unable to reach an agreement.

Can depression lead to asthma? How about over-medicating?

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and UPMC are trying to answer these questions with a new computer program that has the ability to track 112 clinical variables for 398 people who do and do not have asthma.

This program can identify various subtypes of the disease such as asthma related to allergies, sinuses or environmental factors.

Wei Wu, an associate professor at CMU’s Lane Center for Computational Biology, said they want to help clinicians better define “asthma.”

Chaney Lewis had lunch Friday, but plans to not take another bite for the next 168 hours.

UPMC workers, faith leaders and community activists gathered in front of the US Steel Building Friday to begin a week-long fast in protest of UPMC’s treatment of it’s workers.

Two UPMC employees will fast the entire week while protesting outside of UPMC’s downtown headquarters on Grant Street as a part of what they are calling Fast For Our Future.

Last week, the trauma center at UPMC Presbyterian began a medical trial using critically injured gunshot and knife wound patients. It’s similar to suspended animation, but surgeons are calling it Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation.

The patients will not quite be alive, but they also won't quite be dead.

UPMC Website

When the National Diabetes Education Program gathers for its annual meeting this summer it will install a Pittsburgher in its top elected position.  University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute Executive Director Linda Siminerio was elected as chair earlier this year.

The federally-funded program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Siminerio refers to the nation’s struggle with type II diabetes as an epidemic but warns that it is already a pandemic in other parts of the world.

An ongoing federal investigation involving Pittsburgh's former mayor and the city's lawsuit challenging the nonprofit status of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have intersected — at the ex-mayor's computer.

Former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl took the computer with him for about 10 days after leaving office in January, but has since returned it. Now UPMC's attorneys want to know if he did anything with the device that might impact the city's ongoing lawsuit over its nonprofit status.