Highmark, WPAHS Announce “Affiliation”

By: Jon Delano

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – West Penn Allegheny Health System said it needed a partner with lots of cash on Tuesday.

They said they found that partner in Highmark, a major health insurance company in this region.

Today, the boards of both companies signed off on a deal which, in essence, means that Highmark will buy West Penn Allegheny.

The auditorium at Allegheny General Hospital was crowded when West Penn Allegheny confirmed that Highmark will take over this region’s second largest healthcare provider.

“For us, it could not have been a better fit, and it could not have come at a better time,” West Penn Allegheny Board Chairman David McClenehan said.

McClenehan said a lot was at stake.

“There would be no West Penn Hospital come September had this transaction not occurred.”

Highmark, the region’s largest health insurer, is pumping money into West Penn Allegheny. They will spend $50 million immediately to shore up West Penn Hospital and Forbes Hospital, $350 million over the next four years to strengthen the health system, and $75 million in medical scholarships.

Highmark CEO, Dr. Ken Melani, said all insurers and their patients would have access to West Penn Allegheny hospitals.

“We will make our system available to any insurer that desires to have a contract, including UPMC, to assure that patients have uninterrupted access to their health care providers.”

At a press conference following, Melani said Highmark’s purchase will save some 11,000 jobs.

“This is a system that is going to grow. It is only going to grow. So from that perspective, this will be a win for the community in terms of overall job growth over time,” Dr, Melani said.

Sources: Highmark In Talks To Buy West Penn Allegheny Health System (April 12, 2011)
Highmark, UPMC To Part Ways (June 15, 2011)

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West Penn Allegheny Health System

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  • John

    At the news conference they told the employees that without Highmark West Penn Hospital would have closed in September. Do not forget that West Penn bailed out AGH. If this would have occured, when were they going to tell the employees. Why does the AGH Board have it in for West Penn who was their savior. Get that whole stupid WPAHS board out of there. They were trying to kill West Penn!

    • Confused

      What AGH board? The board is the WPAHS board, the WP standing for West Penn. They are a health system not two separate entities.

  • Sandy Morrow



  • Jim

    For too long Upmc has been able to dictate and run things in this area..I find it amazing how the politicians have remained relatively silent because Upmc controls them….If I were a physician alligned with Upmc, I would think twice about staying with them because they will see their patient roles dwindle consuiderably…Upmc is nothing more than a greedy for profit entity that wants a monopoly in the area.

    • mary


    • 2059

      you’re so right about UPMC, but we also have another greedy player in Western Penna. and that is EXCELA HEALTH in Westmoreland county.

  • Mugsymom

    I am a WPH employee and I, too, was outraged to hear from the Board Chair McClenahan, that WPH would have closed for good in September if not for the Highmark deal. It would have been nice to know that information! I can only hope for the best with Higmark – bring the vitality back to West Penn that is so much deserves. It’s a wonderful hospital built on pride for the community – let’s let it “breathe” again! Open the ER, the units, and “they will come” “Build it and they will come!” Thanks Highmark for believing in us.

    • JS

      As a system employee I cannot believe Board Chair McClenahan uttered any words regarding the closure of West Penn Hospital. All it served to do was to infuriate anyone that I have spoken to regarding the remarks. AGH seems to have an identiy proplem but with no shortage of the amount of rhetoric and arrogance which flows flom their representatives mouths. Give West Penn its ER back and all the MD’s that were manipulated out of its system and you will see a once again thriving and properous community hospital. How many times can a AGH get bailed out before it realizes where the problem really resides. The “Road Ahead” finally has a destination, lets not ruin it by being so seemingly bipartisan.

  • Anonymous

    The entire AGH board should be removed immediately. What kind of organization destroys one of the best hospitals in the city?

  • Anonymous

    What was the point of McClenahan making the statement regarding the closure of West Penn? West Penn bailed out AGH or did he forget? Why wasn’t the bailout mentioned during the AHERF comment or the fact that West Penn was the first magnet hospital in Pittsburgh? Such a shame that there is no recognition or credit for West Penn from the existing WPAHS board members. Hopeful that Highmark will come in and clean house immediately before they are sucked into the current regimes way of thinking.

  • still employed

    If people only knew how bad things were at West Penn financially, they would understand that AGH didn’t run them in the ground. If you ask around the city, the AGH name is more well known than West Penn, except for the fantastic burn unit. Remember also, that Highmark also gave money to AGH, when West Penn helped along. But the finances at WPH were never really common knowledge to a majority of employees. The majority of hospitals are having difficult financial times, and we will see more and more of the type of mergers/buyouts that you just started to see with Highmark/West Penn Allegheny and remember UPMC has its own insurance so they shouldn’t have much to say about Highmark / West Penn Allegheny

    • Anonymous

      Is there a point in there somewhere?

    • Agree

      Agree, WPH had been bleeding red for a long time. The board is not the AGH board but the WPAHS board. It did what it felt best for the health system, not for AGH but the health system. What I heard in the press conference was reference to both hospitals and their significance and importance in the Pittsburgh landscape. WPH financial problems were not caused by AGH. As far as people saying build it they will come, the problem was they weren’t coming thus the reason WPH was flailing financially.

  • Anonymous

    Sill Employed, what was your point!

  • Del Ann Haslett

    to still employed–was there a point there? sounds like a bunch of rambling!

  • Anonymous

    Still Employed-how is AGH better known than West Penn. For what, the metal detectors you have to go thru to get into the ER? Or having to carry mace just to get to your car? Or how about how rude and ignorant so many of the RNs are to the patients that they would never go back there? And isn’t it true that West Penn is the ONLY Magnet Hospital in the Pittsburgh area? Remember that-Nursing Excellence-something AGH will never know. West Penn has set the standards of caring and there is no way AGH can compare. Highmark knows this too. Just hope they get rid of Olivia be for long!!!

  • Anonymous

    UPMC Shadyside is a Magnet Status Hospital

    • mary


    • Anonymous

      That may be so now, but West Penn was the First in Pittsburgh and Western PA

      • Pittsburgh Resident

        The comment is relevant. It demonstrates the competency,dedication and excellent care that is given by the West Penn nursing staff and their desire to be the best healthcare givers in the city. To be the first is definitely of worth to those of us who care about achieving excellence.

      • Anonymous

        Okay, but it isn’t anymore. So the original statement that West Penn is the “only” Magnet hospital in Pittsburgh is factually incorrect, and the fact that West Penn was first to achieve that status is largely irrelevant.

  • John

    The great WPAH Board at the press conference which was beoadcast from AGH – I would not send a dog there, would not take any questions from its employees, but would take them afgter the conference from reporters, Is the board afraid to talk to its employees? Get rid of the entire bunch of them. Thank you Dr. Melani and Highmark. One other thing to the great minds at AGH – how do you close a magnet hospital? What a crew!!!!!!!!

  • pittgirl

    Wow…lots of bitter West Penn employees. Why don’t you just focus on what we are all in the business for…providing healthcare….and be glad that this move might very likely save both AGH and West Penn’s future in this city.

    As for your comment that AGH seems to corner the market on rude and ignorant RNs….talk to anyone who has gone to ANY hospital and there is likely to be someone they encountered that was less than to their liking. That behavior comes from within that individual worker and not from the organization that employs them.

    Time to get over your grudges and move on….and hope that better days for all patients and employees are what lies ahead.

    • Anonymous

      Lucky for you that you clearly have never been in an abusive situation lilke the WP employees have been. Judge not.

      • pittgirl

        Oh please….I have been working for the hospital for years…all through the bankruptcy and many other less than positive events. If you are so abused by the health system, go get another job….no one is forcing you to stay there. The grass is not always greener on the other side. By the way, I am not an RN at AGH…but I do work for a department that combined AGH and West Penn employees. Thank God we all didn’t have attitudes like your’s or we never would have made it.

    • Anonymous

      Do you know what “down-staffing” means? Well it means either losing work hrs. by means of using vac time or worse, taking time off without pay, which essentially happened when all our services were trans. to North Side. Sure a lot of us here have grudges and a mort. payment. T.Y>!!!!!!!!!!

    • Anonymous

      And what kind of bitterness would spew from you if the shoe were on the other foot? West Penn lost alot of good people over all this.

  • Anonymous

    Far from a bitter employee. We have been focusing on providing for our patients. They don’t want to go to AGH. West Penn has already bailed you out once before and this was the thanks they got! So maybe you are one of the lesser rude and ignorant RNs at AGH. Well bully for you-glad to hear it. Have no grudges to get over-karma takes care of all


    Are AGH and West Penn employees really going to fight it out over the KDKA Comment section? As an employee for WPAHS I can tell you that both are fantastic hospitals with great people at both institutions. All are committed to excellent patient care and are passionate about their institutions! West Penn made a business decision a decade ago and for a number of reasons, it didn’t go as well as expected. However, it’s time to stop crying over spilled milk and get on board! This health system is struggling because of the other health system across town making all of the rules for the region. If there’s any fight left, it should be directed at UPMC, not each other.

    • Anonymous

      Fantastic post! Its true the enemy is UPMC. Get with it and fight them. Its not an AGH board either people, It’s a WPHAS board of directors. And It’s not that scary over here, you are just used to a less crowded/quiet hospital, this is the city not the outskirts.

  • concerned

    As an employee of the “health system” I have to agree with pittgirl. We are a system. The time has come to start acting like ONE!!! I
    ‘ve also been a patient in several hospitals in both systems and even one of the lone free standing hospitals and there can be complaints regarding care on both sides.
    If we really want to know who has the “better” health system and who gives the “best” healthcare, then all the hospitals, WPAHS and UPMC, should accept all insurances. Let the patients decide who they want to go to and who provides the best care.
    WPAHS needed a white knight – they found it in Highmark. Hopefully this will help revitalize the health system and what they can provide to the public.

    • CF. DIAZ

      How can we act as one when there has been leach thriving on one host after another?

  • Anonymous

    So….What does this all mean to the employees of West Penn that were layed off and remian unemployed while AGH and other hospitals within the system have hundreds of jobs posted on their job boards? Will these nurses get called back to work? Will new administration mean new human resources as well? Has anyone ever asked why there are still system employees on lay off status while AGH and Forbes Regional have jobs available? I think it is time these employees get called back to work.

    • concerned

      If there are that many jobs available at the other facilities then apply for them and quit griping.

    • confused

      Lots of West Penn nurses came to AGH to work. They are more than welcome. They aren’t new grads, they come with experience and that is always a positive for any department. I have not heard of West Penn nurses being turned away from other WPAHS facilities. It was heartbreaking what happened when the units at WPH were closed. I have a mortgage and other bills to pay, had I my position been dissolved I would have taken a position elsewhere. I would have been sad but it may have ended up being something positive and good, never know until you try.

  • concerned

    Ok – I really think some of these people have to be working for UPMC who are making these ridiculous comment. Which is making those of us who work for WPAHS look like real idiots here!!!
    AHERF happened a decade ago. Time to move on. AGH and WPH have not been working as seperate hospitals for a long time. And I know for a fact that they both have “fed” off the other MANY times!!!
    So now they can ALL feed off Highmark.

  • anonymous

    So much for those who have highmark insurance and wish to go to a UPMC facility or specialist/doctor…..This is going to affect many….

    • concerned

      The same can be said for those who have UPMC and can’t go to WPAHS facilities.

      • Dancing Queen

        Please. I have UPMC insurance and would never, ever, ever, ever, EVER consider using a WP facility. Why would I?

        I’m tired of these people slamming UPMC as the bad guy. They must be doing something right if competing hospitals need a bail out from a major insurance company. Insurance companies are the baddest of bad guys.

  • Anonymous

    If they are thinking about reopening W.P.’s ER. What are thier plans for the ER in Bellevue. That area is still in need of a GOOD ER TOO!!!!! They really need to look reopening the ER and inpatient beds.

  • Veronica

    I really hope that they are thinking about reopening the ER in Bellevue. That area could use a working ER too! The city has many ER’s to go to, but the North Hills only has one. I hopping they will think hard about that.

  • Anonymous

    I would like to see what WPASH has to say about that too. I wouder if KDKA asked that question. I would be nice to hear the answer.

  • UMPC4Life

    UPMC = world renowned hospitals. WPAHS = failed system that had to be bailed out by an insurance conglomerate. That is all.

    • concerned

      Thanks for the commercial.

  • patient2

    Most of what I am reading on this, everyone is worried about the “non-profits” and themselves. I thought healthcare was about what is best for the patient not yourself. It doesn’t matter who is bigger or badder as long as the end result is about the best possible care for the patients. All insurances should allow their customers to go to all healthcare systems, so they can decide where they, the patient, can get the best care for their health issues. What gives insurance the right to say one healthcare system is better then the other? Let the patients chose the doctors and hospitals they want to go to, not the insurance companies.

    • patient2

      Side not: I realize that no matter what insurance you have you can pay OUT-OF-NETWORK cost to go anywhere you want, however what I was getting at is all doctors and hospitals regardless of what health system it is, the insurances should cover it as IN NETWORK. Just in case, someone didn’t understand what I was trying to say.

  • Patrick

    Patients concern should and does come first thru out the WPAHS System.. But a few facts; The Board of Directors of the system has 4 doctors from AGH on it and 0 from West Penn; so how can you not think everything is tilted toward AGH. That is why alot of employees at West Penn are upset.
    UPMC did not have to consolidate services from Shadyside to Presby to survive; Why did we and why almost evrything to AGH. You might thing we are 1 system but we are not and you can the Board for that.

    • comcerned

      This also why UPMC will continue to thrive. Lack of internal competition and the mentality of it’s each hospital for themselves. Highmark or not WPAHS is never going to be able to compete externally if it has constant competition intermally. So the question is, how bad does everyone internally want it?!

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