The Delaware County Court of Common Pleas is temporarily halting the closure of Delaware County Memorial Hospital.
Visiting Judge Robert Shenkin, who comes from Chester County, granted the nonprofit Foundation for Delaware County a preliminary injunction Tuesday in its petition against Crozer Health, the four-hospital system in Delco, and its parent company, Prospect Medical Holdings.
Shenkin is ordering Crozer and Prospect to suspend “any actions materially altering the present operation” of DCMH while the court looks over the case.
“We are obviously very pleased with the Judge’s decision ordering Prospect to keep Delaware County Memorial Hospital open. He recognized that closing the hospital is a clear violation of Prospect’s commitment when they purchased the Crozer Keystone Health System to keep the hospitals open as acute care facilities and that closing the hospital would be tremendously damaging to the community,” said Frances Sheehan, president of the Foundation, in a written statement.
Crozer and Prospect decided to shut down DCMH in September within 60 days and transition it into a behavioral health facility. The choice to close shop would drastically reduce access to emergency medical care for Delco’s more than 573,000 residents.
“The County is pleased to learn of Judge Shenkin’s decision. The injunction will serve to keep DCMH open to provide care to the community, while the Foundation for Delaware County and the County consider the best way to work with Prospect-Crozer to provide stable, high-quality healthcare to Delaware County residents. If asked to participate, the County will join in any discussions between the Foundation and Prospect-Crozer,” said Dr. Monica Taylor, the chairperson of Delaware County Council in a written statement.
The Foundation first filed its legal petition with support of the county about a week later.
The nonprofit holds legal standing in the case because of the initial sale of the Crozer-Keystone Health System to Prospect back in 2016. This subsequently turned Crozer into a for-profit entity. The Foundation for Delaware County argues that part of the deal requires Prospect to keep acute care services at its four hospitals open for a period of no less than 10 years.
This would mean that Prospect wouldn’t be allowed to close shop until 2026. The foundation deemed Prospect’s decision to close DCMH as “a public health emergency.”
Last week, the court held its first hearing on the matter and Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced that his office would be intervening in the litigation in favor of the Foundation for Delaware County.
“Every Pennsylvanian should have access to affordable healthcare,” Shapiro said in a written statement at the time announcing his legal action. “My office will do everything within our power to force Prospect to live up to the commitments they made to Delaware County residents and to protect access to care for all Pennsylvanians.”
The judge is now asking the parties to meet in person within two days to discuss Crozer and Prospect’s plan for changing the operations of DCMH and to report in writing the results of those discussions.