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Congressman Joyce visits Somerset Hospital to talk about its future

January 23, 2019

U.S. Rep. John Joyce visited with Somerset Hospital executives on Tuesday to discuss the challenges of rural health care amid a changing medical industry.

“I’m encouraged by the growth and development that is occurring here in Somerset Hospital,” said Joyce, a Republican and dermatologist from Altoona.

“The affiliation with UPMC will allow for greater resources and expansion. We look for more accessibility with UPMC. The ability for UPMC to springboard off of what is here is an asset as well. It’s not everything coming from Pittsburgh. It’s also Somerset helping them.”

Among the topics covered was the need to better serve the public by attracting more candidates to positions that are open at Somerset Hospital.

Hospital CEO Andy Rush spoke to a round table of about 20 people about the impending partnership with UPMC. He expressed hope that it would lead to a greater pool of talent to hire from.

“They have good programs in Pittsburgh,” Rush said. “If they’re in Altoona, they know the region. We’ve had many of those stories of two-day recruitment and we know whether they want to be here or not.”

The board also addressed mental health needs in Somerset County and the lack of facilities for those who need extended mental health care.

Joyce criticized Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf for the lack of state funds for the completion of state Route 219, which is unfinished between Meyersdale and Maryland. Joyce praised the connection between Meyersdale and Somerset as an important development for the local health care industry. But he stressed more opportunities for professionals in that industry and for prospective patients would come if the road were to be finished.

Joyce headed off to meet people with Conemaugh Health System and the Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber. But before he left, he addressed what many in the community are talking about — the looming competition between the major health care providers in the area.

In December, officials broke ground for Conemaugh Somerset, a 16,020-square-foot outpatient facility along North Center Avenue featuring advanced diagnostic imaging services, including mobile tomography, mobile magnetic resonance imaging, X-ray and 3D mammography, a primary care clinic, cardiology, neuroscience and urology specialty care services, nuclear medicine, lab testing and occupational health services. The facility was made possible by a nearly $10 million investment from Duke LifePoint Healthcare, Conemaugh’s parent company.

“I think healthy competition allows for people to climb to the next level of success,” Joyce said. “Especially if you have the building blocks here already.”

The partnership between Somerset Hospital and UPMC is to be finalized early this year.