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State approves new affiliation for Jamestown's WCA Hospital

WCA Hospital

State regulators have approved a fiercely-debated plan that will allow WCA Hospital in Jamestown to merge with Pennsylvania’s largest healthcare provider.

Following a hearing Thursday that lasted nearly two hours, the state Health Department's Planning Council approved the controversial affiliation with only vote dissenting vote. The move allows the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to become co-operator of WCA.

Supporters insist the affiliation will provide millions of dollars in upgrades and reduce the hospital’s debt.

“This will allow us to provide excellent care to the over 7,000 in-patients that go through our facility, over

400,000 outpatient services and to continue with our Emergency Department that last year alone saw over 42,000 patients," said WCA President and CEO Betsy Wright.

Wright warned that a rejection by state regulators would be "devastating" to the 317-bed hospital.

However, critics insist the move will reduce services, restrict patient access and drive up costs. Karen Jarrett, the downstate director of the New York State Nurses’ Association urged regulators to block the merger:

“We all agree and want WCA Hospital to be a strong community hospital, but we don’t believe that UPMC is the answer – nurses who are on the front lines of care," Jarrett said. "We are troubled by UPMC’s record and business practices that we believe have led to high prices and limited access to care for many patients and families."

Opponents of the new affiliation argued that a previous partnership between UPMC and Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk was a "miserable" experience.

WBFO's Matt Neidhart contributed to this report.