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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The New Year will start without West Penn Hospital’s emergency room as the department stopped admitting patients and closed its doors for good this morning.
It happened right on schedule at 10:05 a.m., signs for the emergency room were covered or torn down.
It’s been six months coming, but now several inpatient services are officially closed.
For the staff, it was hard to say good-bye. Gifts were sent to the ER for their last day.
Mike Hazel is a nurse in the emergency department and says the whole process of closing the units hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been rough six months of everybody interviewing for the same jobs,” said Hazel. “It’s tough; you’ve got to come to work every morning knowing that you are going on an interview against your coworker.”
Some services will stay at West Penn, like out-patient surgery and diagnostic services. However, many other in-patient services are now gone. It’s part of a restructuring plan announced in June between West Penn and Allegheny General Hospital.
“We understand that there is some anxiety,” said Dan Laurent, of West Penn Allegheny Health System. “This was a difficult decision for us it’s a difficult decision for the community.”
Anthony Brown took his 4-year-old the ER at West Penn on Christmas day for burns. He says the community depends on the emergency services and he’s sad to see them close.
“He really needed treatment real fast and this was the closest area to go to,” said Brown.
For much of the staff, they’ve already found new jobs and they’re trying to be optimistic about the future.
“We’re all sad,” said Kim Reichle, the ER’s clinical coordinator. “We’re all cleaning and sad. We’re going to have a toast at 10 o’clock. It is New Year’s, new beginnings, so we’re going to move on.”
The initial estimate was around 1,500 people would lose their jobs because of the restructuring. While it doesn’t make it any easier, that number has dropped significantly.
A representative from the West Penn Allegheny Health System puts the job loss around 200 to 300 people.