September 2, 2010 Under an agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) will provide support for primary and urgent care services in the borough of Braddock, Pennsylvania and neighboring communities through expanded hours and services at the Braddock Family Health Center.
UMPC entered into the voluntary agreement with HHS' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in an effort to resolve a complaint alleging that it violated provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when UPMC decided to close Braddock Hospital in January of this year. Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by recipients of Federal financial assistance such as UPMC, which receives funds from HHS.
Public response to the closure of UPMC Braddock focused on the closure's impact on access to healthcare for African Americans due in part to residents' widespread dependence on public transportation. Indirect bus routes requiring multiple connections could result in long transport times to the various other neighboring hospitals. Accordingly, the agreement requires UPMC to provide door-to-door transportation services from Braddock and surrounding communities to its new outpatient facilities in Forest Hills, PA as well as to UPMC McKeesport Hospital.
The agreement builds upon some initiatives that UPMC had started in the Braddock community. Under the agreement, UPMC will provide up to six health screening programs throughout the year in the community.
Further, UPMC will support wellness programs through its "Steps to a Healthy Community" initiative, and by partnering with health ministries at local churches in the area. Through this program, UPMC will conduct outreach in the community and help link residents with health resources
and appropriate providers. UPMC will also designate a patient
ombudsperson to assist residents with obtaining health care and receive and address residents' complaints about access to health care.
"We recognize that health care institutions are confronted with difficult economic decisions," said OCR Director Georgina Verdugo.
"However, those decisions must consider the impact on communities and steps must be taken consistent with their obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to ameliorate that impact. We are confident that UPMC's novel four-pronged approach of access to urgent and primary care services, transportation, community outreach and wellness and screening programs will do much to address the impact of the hospital's closing."
The agreement remains in effect for three years, and requires UPMC to make quarterly reports to OCR regarding compliance. A copy of the voluntary resolution agreement, along with more information about OCR's civil rights enforcement activities, may be found at www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/activities/agreements/.