PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Below is the full statement released today by State Sen. Jim Ferlo on the West Penn Allegheny Health System-Highmark situation.

“I am gravely disappointed in today’s announcement that West Penn Allegheny and Highmark are ending their effort toward an Affiliation Agreement. West Penn has been an honest broker in this process, is an important community asset, and is a vibrant health system whose survival is instrumental if the Pittsburgh region is to have a competitive and vigorous healthcare market.”

“I have concerns that this entire process was nothing more than a ruse from the start on Highmark’s behalf to provide leverage in their negotiations with UPMC to extend their partnership. The facts are clear: Highmark signed a contract extension with UPMC for preferential rates, low-balled West Penn on the rates it was willing to pay their ostensible partner, and then changed the nature of the Affiliation Agreement by demanding a bankruptcy proceeding. This appears to be a process which was rigged simply to maintain a relationship with UPMC that provides both with unfair market dominance and hurts Southwest Pennsylvanians.”

“I hope that I am wrong, and that Highmark and West Penn Allegheny can continue to move forward with a new Affiliation Agreement that will benefit both parties. I still believe that a Highmark – West Penn partnership is best for the region and both companies. It will provide for a healthy competitor to UPMC, maintain 12,000 family-sustaining jobs, and deliver the same quality of care that the West Penn Allegheny Health System is known to offer. However, if that is impossible, I promise to work closely with the West Penn leadership to provide any support necessary to find new partners that will negotiate in good faith to keep the health system open and on track to a positive future.”

“Over the last year the Community Collaborative Stakeholders, through my leadership, has put in countless volunteer hours supporting this merger. In meetings, public hearings, letter writing, and by organizing affected communities, we have provided support for the affiliation of these two important organizations. To see this energy wasted, amongst the efforts of many other supporters, because of a cynical ploy by Highmark to use West Penn as leverage is nothing short of infuriating.”