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Activists Oppose New UPMC Hospital, Want Expanded Treatment For Addiction, Mental Health & More

A mockup of the new Vision & Rehabilitation Hospital to be built near UPMC Mercy in Uptown.

A march is scheduled on Tuesday ahead of a public hearing at Pittsburgh’s city council about a proposed UPMC vision and rehabilitation hospital in Uptown.

A coalition of Pittsburgh community organizations say they’re concerned with the health care system’s plan to build a trio of specialty hospitals, including the Uptown location. The group argues that instead of spending $2 billion for specialty facilities, UPMC should expand treatment in areas like opioid addiction, diabetes, mental health and primary care.

“We need to think about the health challenges that people in our community actually have, and make sure that when UPMC investing its money, it’s addressing those and not just high-cost specialty procedures that would primarily be used by people outside of Pittsburgh,” said Jennifer Rafanan Kennedy, executive director of Pittsburgh UNITED, a coalition member that advocates for social and economic justice.

UPMC, Pennsylvania's largest private employer, is a non-profit, meaning its hospitals are exempt from property taxes. Rafanan Kennedy said instead of expensive facilities, UPMC could focus on increasing entry-level salaries.

“One of the primary ways that people can get out of poverty is by having living wages and a voice in our work place,” she said.  “We think that’s a critical investment for a nonprofit in our community.”

UPMC declined to comment for this story, but announced in 2016 plans to pay most entry-level employees in Pittsburgh at least $15 per hour by 2021.

90.5 WESA receives funding from UPMC.

Sarah Boden covers health and science for 90.5 WESA. Before coming to Pittsburgh in November 2017, she was a reporter for Iowa Public Radio where she covered a range of issues, including the 2016 Iowa Caucuses.
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