Tuesday, December 15, 2009
35 Allegheny County residents have signed up to speak at tonight’s County Council meeting in an effort to get the council to put a few stipulations on a bill that would allow the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to refinance a 1.2 billion dollars in bonds. UPMC applied to the Allegheny County Hospital Development Authority for the assistance which is expected to lead to a lower rate than if the health care provider went out to the bond market on its own. Tony Buba is organizing the speakers, he says they are not asking the council to kill the deal but they are hoping it will either tie the refinancing help to UPMC keeping the Braddock hospital open for another six months or table the bill until UPMC enters into “good faith negotiations” to keep the facility open. Buba says at the least the council should find out what the original bond was used to finance. The ordinance does not enumerate how the money was used. Buba says it is unclear if the money was spent in Allegheny County or in Cyprus or Ireland. The bill does say that the money will be used for the “public interest” and for projects “located throughout Allegheny County and other Western Pennsylvania counties” but it does not list those projects. The original bonds being refinanced were issued between 1988 and 2008. By serving as the conduit for the bond the county will receive $240,000 in the first year and $175,000 in the remaining 29 years of the financial tool. Buba says the council needs to see this not as a financial matter but as a social justice issue. He says a line needs to be drawn in the sand and a message needs to be sent to hospitals across the country that communities are not willing to stand by as facilities in poor communities are closed while new hospitals are built in more affluent suburbs.