Apr. 09, 2024

HARRISBURG – Many members of the Washington County legislative delegation led by Rep. Tim O’Neal (R-Washington) today called on Gov. Josh Shapiro to take a stand and work with the Pennsylvania attorney general to finalize the merger of Washington Health System (WHS) and UPMC.

Other members of the delegation supporting this effort are Reps. Bud Cook (R-Greene/Washington), Rep. Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) and Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington).

Last June, the WHS board voted to sign a non-binding letter of intent to negotiate an affiliation agreement to integrate WHS into the UPMC family. In late 2022, the WHS board submitted a request for proposals to affiliate with a larger health care provider that could enhance the services and clinical offerings of WHS. The intent was to keep high-quality health care that is sustainable and locally available not only for today, but for the future generations of Washington and Greene counties. Without the merger, Washington Hospital is at risk of closing. The merger would allow all employees to keep their jobs, pay and benefits.

“The attorney general must approve the deal for it to be finalized; however, there is a force of outside political pressure muddying the situation,” O’Neal said. “Ceding to political pressure by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Gov. Shapiro’s hand-picked attorney general held a first-of-its kind public hearing on the merger earlier this year, where nearly every single testifier spoke in support of the deal. Yet months later, there is still no action to complete the process, leaving employees and health care services at risk in Washington and Greene counties.

“The UPMC acquisition of Washington Health System will present opportunities to the region, preserving jobs and maintaining services for all patients,” Kail said. “We encourage the governor to take a stand in the best interest of the public and help expedite this process because the current situation is not sustainable.”

“Interestingly, Gov. Shapiro, who boasts about helping to settle the UPMC/Highmark dispute in 2019, has been radio silent as health care services and thousands of jobs hang in the balance,” O’Neal said. “I suspect this is due to SEIU being a powerful ally of Shapiro. The organization gave the governor a significant amount of money for his gubernatorial campaign. For a governor who claims to ‘get stuff done,’ it’s time to get off the sidelines and get into the game.”

“The lack of action on this topic is creating unnecessary hardships. There are business and financial aspects to health care and these needless delays create unpredictability and instability,” said Mihalek. “I’m all for due diligence and making thoughtful decisions, but these discussions have dragged on long enough, and the residents in our local communities deserve answers.”

“I have been meeting with officials from Washington Health System since before the proposed merger to ensure continued access to care for area residents,” Cook said. “I will continue to stay in contact with stakeholders to ensure a positive outcome for our community.”

Representative Tim O’Neal
48th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tracy Polovick
RepONeal.com / Facebook.com/RepTimONeal