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NEW CASTLE Hearing addresses concerns over hospital sale



Published: Sat, September 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Physicians are evaluating the community's health-care needs and making recommendations to Jameson.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- About 50 people attended a public hearing to comment on the sale of St. Francis Hospital to the Jameson Health System.

Employees, creditors and others concerned about the changes had a chance to question officials from St. Francis, Jameson and a representative of the person appointed by the courts to disburse all of St. Francis Health System's assets. The hearing was coordinated by Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher, and a transcript of it will be sent to the Allegheny County Orphans Court, which is overseeing the sale of St. Francis Health System.

The ailing health system announced last month that it was going out of business and selling its Lawrenceville and Cranberry hospitals to UPMC. The New Castle facility is being sold to Jameson Health System, an independent health operation in Lawrence County.

Employees' concerns

Employees asked about severance pay and unused vacation and sick time.

Ed Weisgerber, legal counsel for St. Francis, said employees who do not get jobs immediately will be paid severance. They will also receive pay for any unused vacation time, but no unused sick benefits will be paid.

Thomas White, chief executive officer and president of Jameson Health System, said they expect to hire about 92 percent of the St. Francis staff, and seniority will be honored.

Jameson has committed to funding the pension fund for Jameson pensioners and employees, he said. But it will not fund a life insurance policy that St. Francis Hospital offered to its retirees, he said.

Seniors' high rise, hospice

The newly expanded health system will continue to operate Vista South, a senior citizen high rise with 105 occupants, and the St. Francis Hospice. Three members of the order of Sisters of St. Francis agreed to stay on and operate those facilities, White said.

White outlined the proposed changes for both buildings, which will be called Jameson North and Jameson South. He said they will keep 221 beds at Jameson North, the present Jameson Hospital, and 86 beds at Jameson South, the present St. Francis.

He said these plans are subject to change. There are 14 task forces made up of area physicians evaluating the community's health-care needs, he said.

Sister Ann Carville, vice chair of St. Francis Health System, said the Sisters of St. Francis structured the sale to ensure that patients and employees are given preference.

Those concerned about getting payment for services rendered to St. Francis Hospital were assured they will likely get paid.

Larry Palmer, senior deputy attorney general, said he believes enough money has been set aside in the sale to pay all of the New Castle hospital's debts. He noted that is not the case with the Lawrenceville and Cranberry hospitals.




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