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Pittsburgh Business Times 20 People To Know In Law: Paula L. Hooper

Paula L. Hooper, senior vice president and chief legal officer, St. Clair Health

Paula Hooper joined St. Clair last summer from Butler Health System, where she had worked since 2009 and served as vice president and CLO. Previously, Hooper had been senior counsel for litigation at West Penn Allegheny Health System. At St. Clair, the region’s seventh-largest health system and among Pittsburgh’s 25-biggest employers, she provides legal and other advice and oversight across the organization, including governance, physician contracting, medical staff matters, compliance, risk management and general corporate matters.

What’s your outlook for the legal industry for 2021? There is certainly never a shortage of legal issues, both emerging and ongoing in most areas of law. The pandemic has only served to add another layer of complexity to these issues, as well as creating novel legal battles across all industries.

Do you expect lateral movement to accelerate in 2021? Yes. I believe the past year has influenced individual’s thoughts and needs regarding one’s outside obligations and prioritization of what is most important. I believe this will result in lateral moves, as well as other moves to industries that provide job security in continuing to have work available.

Will corporations continue to use alternatives to law firms? Yes. Health care is an extremely regulated industry. Having in-house counsel as part of the senior executive team is a way to include that legal expertise in the everyday management of an organization, to improve the breadth of legal and other input received, while reducing the costs incurred in outside legal fees. That said, I continue to work with highly skilled, specialized outside counsel on certain matters, and that need will continue.

What is your most memorable case or major legal project? The AHERF bankruptcy. It was the largest health care bankruptcy to occur as of 1998. AHERF at the time was a statewide health system with many hospitals and other subsidiaries. I was just beginning my third year of practicing. Even now, almost 23 years later, I use lessons learned from that experience, particularly the importance of strong governance and management practices, to function as a stronger leader and provide better guidance in my role as a senior executive and chief legal officer.

What can the legal industry do to improve diversity and attract more diverse candidates? Women and minorities need to continue to reach out and share their success stories and serve as mentors for others. In my experience, health care has always been an area with a significant number of women in leadership. My first position included a female general counsel, with eight of the 10 senior attorneys being female. Over the years, I have been fortunate to be allowed flexibility when needed, which has only served to increase my loyalty and dedication to my organization. Perhaps the pandemic has allowed organizations to appreciate the ability to function efficiently with more flexibility.

What is your favorite depiction of a lawyer in a book, TV or cinema? Matthew McConaughey’s closing argument in “A Time to Kill” stands out as my favorite movie scene.

What attracted you to St. Clair? Health care leadership roles are very demanding, keeping every day interesting and challenging. It has always been important to me to remain in an industry for which I am extremely proud of the daily efforts and achievements made. St. Clair Health’s high quality ratings, strong financial performance and relationship as a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network attracted me to St. Clair Health. In addition, I had the pleasure of working with several of the leaders of St. Clair Health in a prior role.



455 hospitals with 5 stars from CMS: 2021

CMS updated its Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings for 2021, giving 455 hospitals a rating of five stars.

CMS assigned star ratings to hospitals nationwide based on their performance across five quality categories. This is the first star ratings update since January 2020. This year:

204 hospitals received a one-star rating
690 hospitals received a two-star rating
1,018 hospitals received a three-star rating
988 received a four-star rating
455 received a five-star rating

Click link below for the hospitals that received a five-star rating from CMS, broken down by state, as listed on the Hospital Compare website.

By – Mackenzie Bean and Gabrielle Masson, Becker’s Hospital Review


Consortium urges everyone to get vaccinated

Chief medical officers from a consortium of Southwestern Pennsylvania hospitals and health-care systems issued a letter strongly recommending everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Regional CMO Consortium’s doctors said in Tuesday’s letter that “we do not have enough vaccine participation yet to create the collective protection we all seek, protection that will allow us to have more normal lifestyles.”
The consortium reassured those who are hesitant to get the vaccine that each vaccine available, from the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer to the single-dose Johnson & Johnson, “is well studied and offers safe, excellent protection from severe illness.”

The consortium said the temporary pause taken last week with the J&J vaccine to assess a rare – about 1 in a million – potential blood clot issue “highlights the careful nature of our approach. The risk of serious illness, including blood clots or other problems – even in the young – is much higher if you get COVID-19 infection than if you get the vaccine. And, if you skip vaccination, you are much more likely to get COVID 19 and be harmed.”
The letter continues, “Wondering about the safety of any care is wise. That is why we are sharing the evidence, which is clear: These vaccines protect many people and have very little risk – it is far safer to get vaccinated than to get COVID-19.”

The consortium urges people to get a vaccine as soon as possible “to keep you safe and to keep others safe.”

“We have supplies and vaccination clinics ready for you. Go to or contact whichever vaccination provider that is easiest for you; if you have a concern, ask your doctor or call ahead for advice. We want you to be safe.

Please encourage all 16 years old and older in your family and among your friends to get a vaccine. We will get this pandemic behind us if we all finish this last step.”
The letter was signed by members of the consortium, Dr. Donald Yealy, CMO UPMC; Dr. Donald M. Whiting, CMO Allegheny Health Network; Dr. Carol J. Fox, CMO Excela Health System; Dr. Michael Cratty, CMO Heritage Valley Health System; Dr. John Sullivan, CMO St. Clair Hospital; Dr. John Six, CMO Washington Health System; Dr. Elizabeth Dunmore, CMO Conemaugh Health System; Dr. Russell Cameron, CMO Penn Highlands Healthcare; Dr. Richard K. Neff, CMO Indiana Regional Medical Center; and Dr. James Backstrom, CMO Armstrong County Memorial Hospital.

WVU Medicine Uniontown Hospital is currently without a CMO after the departure of Dr. Surabhi Gaur at the beginning of the year. Hospital President and CEO Dr. David Hess has also been vocal in encouraging vaccination in all who are eligible.


By –  Karen Mansfield – Reporter, Harold-Standard


7th time’s the charm for St. Clair Health

St. Clair Health was honored once again in the Fortune/IBM Watson Health Top 100 Hospitals list for 2021, one of only a handful of hospitals in Pennsylvania to receive the honor and the only one in the Pittsburgh region.

The 329-bed hospital in Mt. Lebanon was ranked No. 4 on the list of the top 60 community hospitals. It has been on the list seven years, including the last four years in a row. The ranking from the magazine and IBM subsidiary rank hospitals on patient safety, satisfaction, health care quality and other measures.

While there were no other Pittsburgh hospitals on the list, Pittsburgh-based health system UPMC received a spot for UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg. That hospital was not only on the overall 100 list but also listed among the top 15 teaching hospitals in the country. Another Pennsylvania hospital, St. Luke’s University Hospital-Bethlehem, was No. 1 on that list and UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg was No. 7. St. Luke’s University Health Network was ranked No. 3 among medium health systems in the country.

St. Clair Health’s partner, Mayo Clinic, was ranked No. 1 among large hospital systems on the Fortune/IBM Watson Health ranking.

“This prestigious honor is perfectly aligned with St. Clair’s rebranding to St. Clair Health, a reflection of who we are as an organization: A quality leader who offers advanced care close to home, treats every patient, partner and person with compassion and respect at every step, and is helping create a healthier region by providing excellent care and being a good neighbor,” said Dr. John Sullivan, chief medical officer of St. Clair Health.


By – Paul J. Gough – Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times


Newly branded St. Clair Health prepares for opening of new outpatient center

For those planning to visit St. Clair Hospital for a COVID-19 vaccine or some other purpose, but haven’t been there for a few years, some changes will be evident.

Chief among those changes will be the presence of a new six-story outpatient center scheduled to open May 10.

“Even though this is a big building, it’s been designed in a way that’s very efficient for our patients, as well as for our physicians,” said Michael Flanagan, St. Clair Health senior vice president and chief operating officer.

“The patients can park underneath, get on the elevator on the third or fourth floor, take it right up to whatever floor where they are receiving services,” he said. “And it’s really ‘one-stop shopping’ from that point forward.”

Considering that the original hospital dates back to 1954, later undergoing expansion as property limitations would allow, today’s visitors often have to navigate somewhat complex paths to various destinations.

By contrast, the design of the Dunlap Family Outpatient Center, which straddles the Mt. Lebanon-Scott Township municipal line, emphasizes convenience for patients in a variety of facets.

James Collins, president and chief executive officer of St. Clair Health – the hospital’s parent organization – described what patients having surgery can expect at the outset.

“When you arrive, there’s a reception desk much like a hotel check-in,” he said. “While there’s a little lobby area, you’re not going to be there very long because you’re going to be assigned a room, and that is your room before surgery. You’ll come back to that room. You’ll come back to that room after surgery, and your family can wait there.”

Dr. John Sullivan, senior vice president and chief medical officer, explained the configuration of the center’s surgical area.

“The operating rooms are all around a core, where your instrumentation, both disposable and those that need to be reprocessed, are in the middle,” he said. “The flow of that is much easier to manage, and because of that, it’s easier to maintain all the principles of sterility and reprocessing instruments.”

Much of the center’s design focuses on implementing principles developed by the Mayo Clinic, with which St. Clair Health has a partnership, with an emphasis on multidisciplinary care.

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Mt. Lebanon hospital rebrands as St. Clair Health

After nearly seven decades, St. Clair Hospital is now St. Clair Health.

The South Hills hospital isn’t just a Mt. Lebanon hospital, which opened in 1954 and has grown to a 329-bed hospital with 600 physicians and 2,500 employees. It has grown to also include three outpatient centers in the South Hills, including the new Dunlap Family Outpatient Center that will soon open connected to the hospital itself.

Why rebrand? Because, health system executives say, the name “St. Clair Hospital” doesn’t encompass everything the organization has become in the past 67 years.

“It’s about the evolution of who we have become,” said Lindsay Meucci, VP of marketing, communications and advocacy at St. Clair Health.

“Thinking back 67 years ago, the founders started a 100-bed hospital, and they never could have imagined where St. Clair would be in 2021,” said James M. Collins, president and CEO of St. Clair Health.

St. Clair is known for its award-winning levels of patient care and safety, annually winning top grades from Leapfrog and other national rankings including the top ranking, five stars, from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It is one of Watson Health’s 100 Top Hospitals in the U.S. and is the only local affiliate of the Mayo Clinic and the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

The rebranding also comes with a new tagline: “Expert care from people who care.”

“We wanted to stay true to our connection to the community and the patient-first experience we provide and showcase our expert physicians, our commitment to technology and our partnership with the Mayo Clinic,” Meucci said.

Dr. John Sullivan, chief medical officer, said the high level of commitment to the community, the quality of the team and the execution was what drew him to St. Clair when he joined as CMO three years ago. He said the focus on people, evidence-based practices and efficient processes have continued and those key elements of in-patient and emergency care are delivered in patient-centric outpatient care.

“This organization has come a long way, and it’s exciting to think about where St. Clair will be in the future,” said Collins.

Part of that future is the Dunlap Family Outpatient Center, a $152 million, 280,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that will serve as the main campus’ place for outpatient surgeries and procedures. It’s the largest expansion at the hospital in four decades, and it will house the growth in outpatient volumes that has seen a 130% increase since 2006. Named after Anna and Ed Dunlap, the founder of CentiMark, and started with a gift from the Dunlaps, the project was also helped by strong support from the community. The capital fundraising campaign, which was targeted for $28 million, raised over $42 million. That was a testament to the dedication and appreciation of St. Clair by the community.

“To achieve essentially 150% of the original target is tremendous, and we had donations both large and small,” Collins said.

The Dunlap Family Outpatient Center, which will have a ribbon cutting in May, was completed on time even despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic, while it initially impacted revenues at St. Clair Health, hasn’t had a lasting financial impact. Collins said the system was essentially where it was financially before the pandemic.

“We’re very satisfied with the position we’re in,” Collins said. “St. Clair was a very strong institution financially going into this project, and as we complete the project, I fully expect St. Clair is going to continue to be a very strong institution.”


By – Paul J. Gough – Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times


A Peek Into The Future Of Health

Logically organized. Warm. Bright. Welcoming.

Those are just some of the descriptions that come to mind on Mt. Lebanon Magazine’s exclusive tour of the nearly finished Dunlap Family Outpatient Center at St. Clair Health, adjacent to St. Clair Hospital on Bower Hill Road.

The 280,000-square-feet, six-story building is the highlight of a $155 million upgrade to the hospital campus and is the largest construction project in the hospital’s 67-year history. The center includes two stories of indoor parking on the bottom floors and three stories of medical services, including operating rooms, endoscopy facilities, such diagnostics as MRI, CT scan and phlebotomy, as well as physician office suites.

The project also included a reconfiguration of the intersection of Bower Hill Road, North Wren and Firwood drives to make the intersection safer, and the addition of a 420-space employee parking garage behind the hospital building.

The ribbon cutting is Thursday, May 6, and the first patient will walk through the doors on Monday, May 10.

The Dunlap Family Outpatient Center includes a beautiful kinetic chandelier, seen here from below.
During our tour, as workers put the final finishes on the project, St. Clair’s top execs explained the design is patient-centric. The goal was to “create an environment with comprehensive services that are easily accessible,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Michael J. Flanagan.

“We want the patient’s experience to be ideal,” said John T. Sullivan, St. Clair Health’s senior vice president and chief medical officer. Among the qualities that lead to a good experience are privacy, natural light, comfortable areas for patients and families to wait and good organization that prevents people from having to move through many areas of the building  just to complete a procedure.

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First Look: St. Clair Health’s Dunlap Family Center

The newly rebranded St. Clair Health is about to open a new outpatient center, its third, adjacent to St. Clair Hospital in Mt. Lebanon.

The $152 million project has been underway for two years and in the planning for longer than that. It was completed recently, with work continuing even during the Covid-19 pandemic, and is set to have a grand opening in early May.

The 280,000-square-foot facility and seven floors will accommodate the 130% growth in outpatient services that St. Clair has seen since 2006. There are 10 operating rooms for outpatient surgery, two procedure rooms, an endoscopy suite with six exam rooms and 51 pre- and post-surgical rooms.

CEO Jim Collins said the growth in outpatient services led to the Dunlap center, which was started by a gift from Anna and Ed Dunlap, founder and CEO of CentiMark Corp., and then funded also with a campaign that brought in donations from around the St. Clair Health community in the South Hills.

Building the center allows the hospital to expand the health care needs even further.

“Certainly we think we can accommodate another 130% growth over the next 10 years,” Collins said. Chief Medical Officer John Sullivan said the facility will have the same great patient care and service that is a hallmark of the hospital and its system, which regularly wins top honors from IBM Watson, Leapfrog and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

One of the features of the center that St. Clair is most excited about is on the seventh floor, where there’s a series of specialty clinics that are connected in front and also in back so that patients and different specialists can together meet with patients and decide upon or update the course of treatment. The layout and process were inspired by the Mayo Clinic’s Gonda Building for outpatient services in its Rochester, Minnesota, clinic.

“That’s something that will be unique in this market,” Collins said.

Most patients in endoscopy and surgical will also be welcomed in a hoteling-type setup, where they begin and leave all from pre- and post-acute rooms instead of the traditional curtains. It’s where their families can also stay while the procedures are being done. Another feature that they brought back was the idea of a specialty pharmacy inside the outpatient center, something St. Clair is doing in collaboration with Walgreens.

The Dunlap Family Outpatient Center’s opening also is part of the hospital’s initiative to rezone its campus, which is located in a neighborhood in Mt. Lebanon and is a pretty tight fit, especially in the front. The hospital, which has been around for nearly 70 years, remains in place but locating the outpatient center on campus required extensive construction and the moving slightly of a road. Collins said the Dunlap Family Outpatient Center was designed with patient convenience in mind. Patients will be able to drive directly underneath the center to the parking garage there instead of the existing hospital garage. Where there used to be parking issues at the hospital there won’t be anymore, because hospital visitors will be able to park in the one lot and then outpatients and their families in the new lot underneath the center.

“You need never try to navigate the rest of the campus at all,” Collins said. “That’ll be a tremendous benefit to outpatients and also allows us the time and the breathing space to go back and rethink the inpatient portion of our campus.”

While nothing has been decided yet, it’s likely that the spaces where outpatient care was delivered inside St. Clair Health’s hospital will be converted to operating rooms, medical imaging and other areas for inpatient care, said COO Michael Flanagan.

Before deciding on a design for the center, executives toured other similar facilities in California, Chicago and Miami, as well as expansions into Arizona and Florida by its partner, the Mayo Clinic. He said that the final design took bits from each as well as what St. Clair executives and physicians knew was needed locally.

“This facility was two and a half years in construction, but it was many, many years in development,” Collins said.


By – Paul J. Gough – Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times


St. Clair Hospital receives first dose vaccines, after three weeks without

PITTSBURGH —Doctors and nurses at St. Clair Hospital has resumed administering first dose COVID-19 vaccines, after not receiving the vaccines for three weeks.

“We’re now back since we got vaccine through the help of many of the legislators in the area and we’re very grateful for the help that they gave us,” said St. Clair Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alan Yeasted.

Dr. Yeasted administered the doses at Twin Towers, about 2 miles from the hospital. He said the residents had their first dose appointments canceled when those doses stopped arriving at St. Clair Hospital. Dr. Yeasted said many of the residents of Twin Towers are not able to get to the hospital, for the clinic.

“It’s very nice that we are able to come back and help these people out,” said Dr. Yeasted.

Dr. Yeasted said the hospital finally received 1,000 first-dose vaccines on Monday. He said he expects they will continue to receive that allotment and he said they will call all of the patients who had their dose canceled first, to get each one rescheduled.



St. Clair Hospital given zero COVID-19 vaccine first doses for weeks, leaders frustrated

ALLEGHENY CO., Pa. — For the third week in a row, St. Clair Hospital says it hasn’t been allocated any supply of the Pfizer vaccine for first dose appointments.

Because of that, thousands of people were put on hold — forced to wait even longer to get the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“It’s profoundly disappointing to those who thought they were right on the cusp of being vaccinated,” said Dr. John Sullivan, senior vice president and chief medical officer at St. Clair. “We canceled several hundred last week, and we canceled all of the first dose appointments this week — and we canceled several senior living facilities.”

That includes the Twin Towers Apartments in Mt. Lebanon and the Dormont Place Apartments — for senior citizens.

Sullivan told Channel 11 5,000 South Hills residents are still in the que, waiting to even schedule a vaccine appointment. And for those who need a second dose, it will depend on shipments over the next few weeks.

St. Clair Hospital is trying to keep residents in the loop as much as possible. They sent out an alert on Twitter and Facebook, telling people to keep checking the hospital’s social media and website for updates.

Sullivan said he would like to see a change to avoid this problem from happening again, along with chief medical officers from many other hospitals in the area.

“The ideal state is going to be when we receive communication three weeks in advance how much we can supply and can book patients with confidence,” he said. “That is the Pa. Department of Health’s plan going forward, just not quite there yet. I think we are on the cusp.”