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Crozer Health, the four-hospital system in Delaware County, has been shrouded in controversy over the past two weeks as it apparently seeks to dig itself out of a deepening financial hole by cutting hospital services.
The actions from hospital ownership have now drawn the attention of local lawmakers who represent the area — and the legislators are not happy.
U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said in an interview that it has been “really disappointing” to see.
“But unfortunately, it’s been part of a continuing pattern over the last few months that [Crozer keeps] announcing cutbacks in service and cutbacks in staffing. And often we’re finding out about it when it hits the news, because they’re not giving folks a heads up. And, that’s just really corrosive to trying to maintain quality health care,” Scanlon said.
WHYY News obtained a copy of a notice from Crozer Health that detailed additional ward and unit closures within Delaware County Memorial Hospital and Crozer-Chester Medical Center last Thursday.
Scanlon added that there has been a complete lack of candor, which she believes is a pattern that tends to follow Prospect Medical Holdings, the parent company of Crozer.
“This has been a nationwide problem with Prospect [Medical] Holdings. We know that Prospect has taken, I think, over $654 million out of the Crozer system, in terms of profits. And that does appear to have impacted service and health care provided and, at the same time, we’ve been hearing from the system that they need more money, and that they’re having trouble maintaining services throughout COVID,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon also raised oversight concerns about Crozer accepting pandemic relief funds, however, she is hopeful in knowing that the Wilmington-based ChristianaCare Health System has expressed a great deal of interest in acquiring Crozer from Prospect.
“Certainly a healthcare system that has a great reputation in the region, and we would want to be helpful there. But right now, the concern is the radical reduction in services from some of our neediest communities,” Scanlon said.
Scanlon brought up the issue of “for-profit incentives getting in the way of effective healthcare” and that is a point that State Rep. Mike Zabel has latched onto in his criticism of Prospect.
Representing the 163rd District, Zabel’s coverage area includes Upper Darby, parts of Havertown, Clifton Heights, and Aldan. Delaware County Memorial Hospital falls under his jurisdiction.
He’s been paying “special attention” to what happens there — and he feels that it has been targeted.
“Slowly but surely, Crozer has been taking away services from Delaware County Memorial Hospital, to such an extent that by this summer, all that will really be operating there is an emergency room. And I fully anticipate that Prospect, the owner of Crozer, who are concerned only about bottom lines and not about health outcomes or about community needs, intends to use those closures as an eventual pretext for closing the hospital altogether,” Zabel said.
Crozer’s chief executive officer Kevin Spiegel declined to comment when reached by WHYY News.
Ultimately, Zabel is concerned that, like with Hahnemann University Hospital, unanimous opposition from lawmakers like himself may not be enough to stop what seems to be inevitable. However, that hasn’t stopped him and his colleagues from reaching out to the state Attorney General’s Office for oversight assistance.
He added that this is what happens when “we have a state in the country that allows for-profit entities to manage healthcare systems.”
“I’m currently exploring legislation that would effectively ban for-profit operators from ever operating a health care system in Pennsylvania. I think it’s the direction that we need to move as a Commonwealth — and as a country,” Zabel said.
From threatening to withhold paramedic services from municipalities unless they pay up to being the target of Delaware County’s emergency ordinance meant to address potential hospital closures, Prospect has been stuck in the headlines.
State Sen. Anthony H. Williams was “frustrated” but not shocked to hear about the developments.
“The bottom line is that there is no place else to go. Many people depend upon subsidized health care and they don’t have a lot of options to go to different places. So critical issues such as life-saving surgeries, and the like, will be sacrificed — people will lose their lives. The ability to diagnose diseases will be compromised,” Williams said.
Crozer was previously a not-for-profit health system before being acquired by Prospect.