Is there a chance to change the future of Bradford Regional Medical Center before its parent company, Upper Allegheny Health Systems, moves more services to Olean, N.Y.?
Pennsylvania Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, and the McKean County commissioners certainly hope so. And they need the public’s help to make their voices heard.
“It’s a call to action,” Causer said Monday night, shortly after he and the commissioners launched a petition to “Save Our Community Hospital.”
The petition is in response to last week’s announcement by UAHS that it plans to move all acute care and surgical services out of BRMC and offer the services only in Olean General Hospital. BRMC would continue to operate an emergency room, some outpatient services and maintain 10 inpatient beds, all proposed to be done by April 1.
“Our hospital is being bled dry,” Causer told The Era. “That’s why we need people to get involved.”
The petition, available on Causer’s website, www.repcauser.com, reads that it is calling on the hospital board, Upper Allegheny and its parent company, Kaleida Health, to cancel plans to transfer all acute care and surgical services away from BRMC.
Causer and the commissioners had a Zoom meeting with UAHS officials on Friday. Causer said that while the officials listened, “they were continually justifying their actions.”
Representatives from UAHS did not immediately reply to a request for comment sent late Monday.
In a statement last week, hospital officials said while some services from Bradford will be moving to Olean, the reverse is also true, as sleep and occupational health services have been moved to Bradford.
“I spoke with them about enhancing health care in McKean County,” Causer explained. “They talk about enhancing it in the region. To them, that’s Olean. It’s Bradford giving and Olean taking.”
Tom Kreiner, chair of the McKean County commissioners, said he asked specifically if there was a chance to forestall the changes. “The answer was pretty much no,” he said.
“I get it, it’s a tough situation, but I think they have to listen to what’s going on. This hospital is vital to our community,” Kreiner said.
Causer said he believes everyone understands the challenges rural health care faces.
“But when you are looking at making the significant changes they are looking at,” he said, “I don’t think they are considering the impacts, even from a transportation perspective.”
Currently, there is no public transportation between Bradford and Olean, which could cause hardships for patients seeking care.
And while UAHS officials declined to give a number of potential jobs lost in Bradford, Causer said he had been told anywhere from 50 to 60.
The UAHS plan for Bradford would take the hospital down to the minimum requirements in Pennsylvania to still qualify as being a hospital, Kreiner said. Ten medical beds are required to maintain that designation.
“Originally, they were hoping for no beds,” the commissioner said, referring to information he’d received in earlier meetings on the topic.
Causer said, “We need to keep pushing forward with the message that we deserve access.” He added that people have been calling his office to ask what they could do to help. Now, with the petition, which he plans to present to UAHS board members and hospital officials, people can add their voices to the cry to save the hospital.
“It is unfathomable that we have to talk about this in the middle of a pandemic,” Causer said.
Hospital officials said the start date of their plan is subject to change, depending on the pandemic.
Causer also recommended that people talk to the hospital’s board members, including Jeannine Schoenecker, formerly of American Refining Group, Dr. Shabir Bhayani, Paul Ridley of Sundahl and Co. Insurance, David Ferguson of McCourt Label, Lisa Fiorentino of University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, Julie Marasco of Northwest Bank and Dr. Anil Pradhan.
Kreiner also urged people to sign the petition, and to make their voices heard.
“This is our community and we need to stand for it,” he said.
Hard copies of the petition can be downloaded from Causer’s website, or are available to sign at Causer’s Bradford office, 78 Main St.