Hearing identifies maternity deserts in Delaware County

Issues with recent closures are now realized in communities throughout the region

DELAWARE, May 11 – Lawmakers in Delaware County taking issue with Crozer Health plans to close facilities in the region hosted a hearing today to understand the impact the closure has had on expectant mothers in the region before joining health professionals demonstrating outside Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

Rep. Gina H. Curry and Rep. Mike Zabel, both D-Delaware, hosted the hearing at Monsignor Bonner & Arch-Bishop Prendergast Catholic High School Auditorium.

“I’ve had conversations directly with Crozer Health about their closures and despite receiving funding from the government, they are putting their own profits over the needs of the community,” said Zabel. “Today’s hearing showed that expectant mothers in Delaware County have been forgotten. I’m sick and tired of healthcare corporations like Prospect Medical Holdings treating Pennsylvania communities like this.”

This year, Crozer Health announced that it is closing a number of its facilities in an attempt to cut costs “to be able to continue providing the highest quality care.” Closures included maternity care at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, impacting members of the Delaware County community today.

Samia Bristow, senior director of programs with Maternity Care Coalition, explained the impacts on the local community are now being realized. The community Bristow serves has virtually no access to prenatal care because of barriers to access to a facility providing the care they need. Moreover, she shared that closing facilities changes the very fabric of the community of growing families.

Lawmakers heard from Angela Neopolitano, an emergency department nurse at Memorial Hospital who shared compelling testimony about instances when she’s turned laboring mothers away, forcing them to get in an ambulance to transfer them to the closest facility that will help deliver her child. Maternity care is not the only service that Prospect Medical Holdings is eliminating in the region.

“Prospect closing Crozer Health facilities means people will have to travel 45-60 minutes to get to a hospital where they can receive care,” said Curry. “That’s an unsafe and terrifying prospect. We need to work immediately to address the maternity care desert that now exists in Delaware County. Whether that means holding this corporation accountable or working to increase funding and lowering barriers to care, we’re prepared to act.”

Testifiers shared potential avenues for funding include doulas, lactation support, and community programs that provide support to parenting families and birthing people. Additional testimony came from Dr. Monica Taylor, chair of Delaware County Council, and Theresa Pettaway, founder and executive director of the Pettaway Pursuit Foundation Inc.

Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, added, “As a father, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be turned away from the local hospital in my community. This issue is becoming pervasive throughout our commonwealth, and it impacts rural and urban communities alike.”

Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., said, “We need to find solutions to eliminate healthcare deserts, particularly when it comes to maternity care. We’re looking at doula licensing and certification processes along with the reimbursement structure that exists in Pennsylvania, and we remain committed to finding solutions.”

Following the hearing, lawmakers walked to Delaware County Memorial Hospital to join nurses and technicians demonstrating outside the hospital. The event was called an “Informational Picket” and is the second event held by Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals regarding Cozer’s planned closures. 

Written testimony and information about this and other Pa. House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policycommittee