2018-03-10 / Front Page

‘UPMC Cole’ era begins

It’s official – the half-century-old Charles Cole Memorial Hospital is no more. The institution is now UPMC Cole, part of the sprawling University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health care conglomerate.

Officials have not offered any significant details on how the merger could affect local jobs and operations. In the run-up to the March 1 merger, a flurry of arrangements had to be addressed over the past several months, ranging from operations, finances, capital expenditures, physician contracts and other contractual commitments, quality reports and performance measures.

It is part of a national consolidation trend in the healthcare industry driven by economics, growing power by insurance companies, and government policies. Unless a small provider has deep pockets or other means of financial support, the choices have been narrowed to two -- shut down or merge.

UPMC Cole is part of the UPMC Susquehanna network, established in October 2016. Roots of the Cole/ UPMC relationship date back almost a decade. The hospital has partnered with what is now UPMC Hamot for cardiology services.

UPMC will support Cole’s outstanding debts and make ongoing investments of at least $27.5 million over the next seven years, including an information technology upgrade. The hospital will save costs by purchasing drugs and medical supplies through UPMC contracts with suppliers.

Officials said Cole Foundation will remain as a separate entity to continue fundraising for local patient care. No information has been released on the status of charitable endowments, including the hospital’s original bequest by Charles W. Cole to support medical care for Potter County’s low-income residents.

UPMC Cole will continue to be supported by its local Board of Directors and a new partnership with UPMC Susquehanna, based in Lycoming County. “Today marks a new era of health care for Potter County and the surrounding region,” said Steven P. Johnson, president of UPMC Susquehanna. “As a pre-eminent academic medical center and insurer, UPMC brings great resources to elevate health care and innovation in our rural communities.”

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