Responding to Change -Non-Profit Nastiness

As most of us realize at some point in our lives, change is the only thing that remains constant. As old and overused as that may sound, it is no less true.

People, and the groups and organizations that they affiliate with, respond to change in many different ways. I’ve been reading and collecting information about changes that are upon the Pittsburgh region, and how they’ve been responded to (or not) by those who stand to be impacted.

There’s plenty of voices providing coverage out there, so I’ll just limit myself to observations that (hopefully) haven’t already been made elsewhere:


As I write this, I’m listening to legendary WDUQ Jazz DJ and Pittsburgh Jazz Society founder Tony Mowod doing his last show before the format changes at about 11:00 PM.

There’s been plenty of pleading, complaining, and yawning on the part of different Pittsburgh pundits and community leaders about the change. Links to it all are on the Save our WDUQ Facebook page.

There’s also been talk about getting a new jazz radio station off the ground. As Tony said on his show tonight, “one door closes, another opens”. I hope they can make it happen, and make it a sustainable venture. LPFM, anyone? Let’s hope someone donates tower space on a nice, high hill somewhere.

Not much else to add that hasn’t been said already. I’ll miss you, Tony.

Highmark / WPAHS / UPMC

One thing I’ve learned from working in government, health care, and with volunteer non-profits is that “behaving like a business”, which local health care giants Highmark and UPMC have recently been accused of, is kind of like accusing a person of eating when they’re hungry.

My first wife Jan and I both worked for a hospital in the old Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation (AHERF) before it imploded under a mountain of debt in 1998 and was acquired by West Penn Hospital, becoming the West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS).

25 years ago, Jan’s father retired from West Penn Hospital as its Chief Financial Officer. He died in 1995, 3 months after I moved to Colorado. I would have loved to have asked him what he thought about AHERF’s collapse and absorption by West Penn. Wayne was a very steady, intelligent person, and his insights would likely have been most valuable.

One thing that has been nearly palpable over those years has been the quiet acrimony between what is now UPMC, Highmark, and WPAHS. UPMC has helped to leverage its position in the market by offering its own insurance plan; now Highmark has seized an opportunity to help support an ailing but vital health care system, and perhaps optimize the efficiency and “surplus-ability” of both.

Many of the analysts and pundits that have commented on this have praised the opportunity for more competition in the health care marketplace, in an effort to keep costs and prices down. Still others have chided officials of both organizations for basically behaving like petulant schoolboys on the junior high school playground. For me, this is conduct unbecoming organizations that citizens depend upon to provide quality health services.

This is the way it’s been in the Pittsburgh region for a long time, and it doesn’t sound like there’s a lot of room for improvement in this area. From what I’ve seen and heard, there may not be much chance of that unless people share their disdain with those who provide services, and insist upon displaying the same commitment to service first, and “surpluses” second.

Highmark/WPAHS and UPMC need to focus on not making things any harder for Pittsburgh area health care consumers than it already is.

Enjoy your Independence Day holiday.

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