Highlands Hospital Staff Seek, Obtain
Connellsville City Council Help
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Some 26 Highlands Hospital staff marched to
city hall this evening to ask for city council's
help to keep the facility open, since the
county gave verbal approval for Uniontown
Hospital to provide Medicaid psychiatric
services and Highlands' admissions have
fallen.

"We have repeatedly asked the
commissioners to come to Highlands, and
with the exception of Commissioner
Zimmerlink, none agreed to meet with us
here and explain how this occurred.

"Now the commissioners are asserting that
the contract was awarded properly and that
they have committed no wrong doing.
Whether they did not vote or have to vote for
Uniontown Hospital to be awarded a contract
is a moot point. Even if the county's
attorneys are successful at defending their
position that the commissioners do not
approve these kinds of contracts, it does not
absolve commissioners from the moral and
ethical questions voters have about this
situation.

"What is relative is that an employee of the
county, who answers directly to the
commissioners and is aware of the effects of
awarding such a contract to Uniontown would
have on us, and as until recently denied any
knowledge of a contract being awarded to  
Uniontown, has provided Value with incorrect
statistics that made it seem like the county
needed another inpatient facility. VBH was
told that the need was due to Highlands being
at capacity and that we transferred patients
out of county without just cause.

"All of those statements are untruths and at
no time did the county or VBH consult
Highlands for its opinions. We have
attempted to serve on the FCMH advisory
board and were denied because we were told
it was a conflict of interest. Yet Uniontown
Hospital currently has an employee of theirs
sitting on the board and the commissioners
approve those appointments.

"As you know, Highlands is a small hospital.
We don't sit on vast reserves of cash. We
have to run out business lean while writing
off millions of dollars that we give away each
year in free care to our community and
fighting off state and federal regulations that
have the potential to close our doors daily.
Commissioner Al Ambrosini shown trying to answer
hospital staff's questions. "I was born at Connellsville
Hospital," he said. No, that wasn't working on this
crowd. Neither would the 9-page letter from the
county attorney. Hospital employees listened while he
tried to explain why VBH referred them to negotiate
rates with the county if the county really doesn't hold
its contract. They politely left the room when he had
no answers for them. Sadly, nobody bought his "I'm
110% behind Highlands" opening, either.
"Thinking at least we can count on our own county
government not to do us any harm, instead they are
blatant in their attempt to have one sole provider at the
expense of 400 jobs.

"Therefore, we are asking city council to help us in our
attempt to arrange a meeting with commissioners to
come to Highlands and explain how this occurred and
for their assurances that they will investigate and
develop remedies that will ensure future fairness to our
facility."