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ERIC POOLE | Herald

Don Owrey, president of UPMC Horizon in Farrell, said the hospital’s investment will be a positive for UPMC patients.

FARRELL — Since UPMC Horizon Shenango Valley joined the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center system 20 years ago, staff at the Farrell location have been working on strengthening ties to the main facilities in Pittsburgh.

Don Owrey, president of UPMC Horizon and UPMC Jameson hospitals, said that’s going to continue, with plans for a $2 billion investment over the next five years to remake three of the health system’s Pittsburgh-based hospitals into specialty care centers.

Officials revealed designs in September for UPMC Vision and Rehabilitation Hospital at UPMC Mercy, UPMC Heart and Transplant Hospital at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Shadyside. 

“We already have a strong relationship with those facilities,” Owrey said about the three targeted hospitals in Pittsburgh.

Work on the UPMC Mercy center, designed by the HOK architectural firm, based in New York and Washington, D.C., is expected to begin in early spring 2019, with a planned opening in 2021.

The UPMC Heart and Transplant Hospital, designed by HGA in Minneapolis, is expected to break ground in late summer 2019, Work on the UPMC Hillman Cancer Hospital, designed by Seattle-based NBBJ, is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2019. Plans call for both facilities to open in 2023.

“Our vision for health care of the future drew us to invite the most talented architects to create iconic buildings, which will be the expression of our cutting edge translational science and the creation of treatments and cures for the most devastating diseases that our patients experience in cancer, heart disease, transplantation, diseases of aging, vision restoration and rehabilitation,” said Jeffrey A. Romoff, UPMC president and chief executive officer, in a press release.

Owrey characterized the move as placing centers within their hospitals — Mercy, Presbyterian and Shadyside will continue to provide other healthcare service beyond the specialties housed in the centers.

And in the case of Shadyside and Presbyterian hospitals, the work will be less a change than a continuation. Presbyterian has been known since the 1980s for its work in the transplant field, and Hillman Cancer Center was established in 1985.

Even the center concept isn’t new to UPMC, Owrey said — the system already has UPMC Magee Women’s Hospital, which serves women’s health needs; UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, for pediatric specialties; and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, for mental health services.

“As an integrated member of UPMC, the specialty hospitals give patients locally the chance to obtain the best medical services in the world,” Owrey said.

At UPMC Horizon, though, the goal is deliver those services without requiring patients to leave Farrell. Owrey said the hospital uses telemedicine services to connect doctors and patients from UPMC Horizon to the specialty centers and other facilities throughout the UPMC system, including the Heart and Vascular Clinic at UPMC Jameson in New Castle.

Telemedicine allows doctors from 60 miles away in Pittsburgh to participate in examinations at Horizon, with the help of a nurse who performs all of the hands-on services, such as applying sensors to a patient.

“The clarity of what the doctor hears on the stethoscope is better than what they could hear in person because of their noise-canceling headphones,” Owrey said.

Technology will soon connect the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC Horizon with the main center in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood. A construction project now under way at Farrell facility will almost double its capacity to provide chemotherapy services.

The $2 billion expansion of centers at Mercy, Presbyterian and Shadyside will yield benefits for patients throughout the UPMC system, Owrey said.

“It will build on some of the programs we already have in place,” he said. “Being a patient of UPMC gets you in that line.”

Follow Eric Poole on Facebook and Twitter @HeraldEricPoole. Email him at epoole@sharonherald.com