Lawmakers hear from healthcare workers, first responders, administrators, and advocates impacted by hospital consolidation
Recent consolidation of area hospitals negatively impacts communities
EAST BRANDYWINE, Oct. 12 – With Tower Health’s announcement last month that it will sell Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia and close Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, Pa., and with the fate of Tower’s Brandywine, Phoenixville, Pottstown, and Reading hospitals still very much up in the air, local healthcare workers, first responders, administrators, and advocates gathered today to address concerns about the potential impacts on quality and access to healthcare, including emergent and mental health care.
The discussion was hosted at the East Brandywine Township Building by state Reps. Daniel Friel Otten and Dan Williams, both D-Chester, whose respective legislative districts flank Brandywine Hospital.
“Hospital closures and consolidations impact every one of us,” Otten said. “Any one of us could be the family member in an ambulance with our child or loved one, praying to make it to the closest hospital in time. As Chester County’s older-adult population grows, our senior-living and long-term care facilities rely on nearby hospitals for emergency calls and patient care. Our law enforcement officers and county human services agencies rely on the availability of psychiatric beds, mental health services, and behavioral health programs to meet community need. The loss of ERs and reduction in critical care services put additional strain on our EMS departments and local municipalities. The ripple effects of consolidations and closures are felt throughout our entire communities.”
“The pandemic has exposed how badly people need close and affordable healthcare,” Williams said. “Discussion today emphasized that we need to keep healthcare facilities open and improve care. Hospital consolidation can be a good thing if healthcare workers are respected and services to patients are upgraded.”
Nurses from Pottstown and Reading hospitals addressed the urgent need for safe staffing levels and the stress experienced by nurses on the front lines who see the impacts on patient care and staff turnover when hospitals reduce services, understaff shifts, or otherwise fail to prioritize patient outcomes and quality of care at the bedside.
Joe Kennedy, EMS Chief for Westwood Fire Company in Valley Township, testified to the impact of hospital closures and reductions in service, noting that when one hospital closes or no longer provides critical care services like cardiac catheterization, trips to the hospital become longer, and remaining hospitals struggle to meet demand. “Now instead of a seven-minute ambulance ride, we might be looking at a 45-minute ambulance ride, and when we get to the hospital, there’s a wait for a bed. Instead of a 30- or 40-minute call for our crew, it might be a three-hour call.”
Panelists included Jerry Silberman, senior staff representative, Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP); Matt Yarnell, president, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania; Linda Heater, unit support coordinator, Pottstown Hospital; Lori Domin, president, Pottstown Nurses United; Crystal Somerset-Bruce, vice president, Pottstown Nurses United; Joe Kennedy, chief of operations, Westwood Fire Company; Pat Bokovitz, director, Chester County Human Services; Joseph Elias, chief of police, Caln Township, and hospital administrators Andrew Wigglesworth, Vice President Wojdak government relations; and Bill Ryan, VP Einstein Health Network/Urban Health Care Coalition.
Other elected officials in attendance included, Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson, D-Philadelphia, Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery, Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Chester, and Rep. Derisha Parker, D-Philadelphia.
Isaacson, representing the House Democratic Policy Committee, said in closing, “Thank you for your presence and offering your stories so that we can bring these to Harrisburg to continue advocating on your behalf. Healthcare is important to this entire caucus, and we are committed to improving access to care for all Pennsylvanians.”
Photos of the event are available on social media handles and upon request at www.pahouse.com/policy.