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Allegheny Valley Hospital Expansion on Solid Ground

August 2, 2008

By Debra Duncan, The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa.

Aug. 2–The West Penn Allegheny Health System’s financial problems will have no effect on the emergency room expansion at Allegheny Valley Hospital, according to officials.

This week, after an internal audit, West Penn announced it had overstated assets by $73 million. Officials said the accounting change, involving revenue it expects from insurance companies and patients, would result in “substantial operating losses.”

“It will have no negative impact on the emergency room project at Allegheny Valley Hospital,” said Tom Chakurda, spokesman for the network of six hospitals, about the revised revenue figures for this fiscal year. But it did cause two investment rating agencies to lower the health system’s bond rating.

Chakurda said it was too early to know how the lower revenue calculation for the entire system, including Allegheny Valley Hospital, would affect the bottom line for the system and its individual hospitals. Hospitals normally would report their bottom line on the fiscal year, which ended June 30, in about a month.

The $12 million emergency room project at Allegheny Valley Hospital is expected to be completed in fall 2009.

Before the emergency room expansion, however, the endoscopy unit must be moved from the ground floor of the hospital to the first floor. It’s moving into a larger and remodeled area that previously housed the labor and delivery unit. That move has just begun.

Linda Jaskolka, spokeswoman for AVH, said moving the endoscopic department, which will cost $3.5 million, will take about nine months. West Penn gave the hospital a $3 million capital advance for the move.

Of the total $12 million cost of the emergency room project, $9.5 million has been raised or pledged: including West Penn’s $3 million, $2.5 million in state grants, $365,000 from a federal grant, $1 million from doctors and staff and $250,000 from the auxiliary.

The public fundraising campaign by the hospital’s trust, AKMC Trust, will raise the final $2.5 million and is continuing.

The ER sees about 34,000 patients a year, many more than the existing 12-bed unit can comfortably handle. It was designed for 20,000 visitors.

AVH’s emergency room will be expanded from 9,000 to 22,000 square feet. It will double the number of treatment rooms to 24 and enlarge the waiting room.

The driveway in front of the hospital has been moved closer to Carlisle Street. That will allow the front entrance of the building to be extended for a larger lobby and atrium.

Its expansion has been in the planning stages since Allegheny Valley Hospital and Citizens General Hospital in New Kensington merged in the 1990s, forming the Alle-Kiski Medical Center.

The Citizens Ambulatory Care Center now housed in the former CGH sees an additional 13,000 patients a year for minor, outpatient emergencies and certain tests.

Debra Duncan can be reached at dduncan@tribweb.com or 724-226-4668.

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Copyright (c) 2008, The Valley News-Dispatch, Tarentum, Pa.

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