UPMC never made any agreement to keep Braddock Hospital open, residents
opposed to its closing have no grounds to reverse the health care
provider's Jan. 31 decision to shut it down.
That was the conclusion of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Gene
Strassburger in a court order dismissing an appeal brought by borough
residents and a group called Save Our Community Hospitals.
In his ruling, Judge Strassburger upheld UPMC's preliminary
objections to the lawsuit seeking to force the reopening of the
hospital. He also found that the residents had no standing to challenge
UPMC's tax-exempt status.
He issued a separate order dismissing a related lawsuit brought by
Braddock residents challenging Allegheny County Council's approval of
refinancing of low-interest bonds for UPMC.
He heard testimony on both appeals last Thursday and issued his rulings on Monday.
In the second case, Judge Strassburger ruled that the borough
residents had not shown that they had a direct interest in council's
action in approving the refinancing.
Protesters opposed to UPMC's plans to close Braddock had lobbied
council without success to delay the matter. They told council members
in December that they hoped that holding up the bonds might persuade
UPMC to rethink shutting down Braddock.
The judge also found that council's decision was a legislative matter and not subject to judicial review.
David Hughes, who serves on Save Our Community Hospitals' steering
committee, said he was not surprised by the decisions, but he was
disappointed with at least one of the reasons given for dismissing the
lawsuits. "The first-level remedy when someone disagrees with a
legislative action is the county courts," he said.
The $1.2 billion in low-interest UPMC bonds were issued through the
county-affiliated Hospital Development Authority, and the proceeds were
not used to fund projects at Braddock Hospital. UPMC sought the
refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates.