Pa. state senator introduces hospital reform legislation to address ‘destabilizing effect’ from recent closures

The exterior of Jennersville Hospital in West Grove

Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, Pa. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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A state senator who represents Chester County plans to introduce legislation to address the flurry of hospital closures and service shutdowns that have swept through the region in recent years.

Citing Tower Health’s decision to shutter Jennersville and Brandywine hospitals within the past year, state Sen. Carolyn Comitta’s bill looks to reform the closure process.

“A sudden, profit-driven decision to close an emergency facility can have a destabilizing effect on an entire region and people deserve a complete picture on the ramifications of a potential closure,” Comitta said in a written statement.

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The bill would require hospital owners to provide written notice to the state no fewer than 180 days before the anticipated date of a facility closure. The state currently mandates a 90-day notice.

Local officials have felt like the current state law of 90 days does not give enough notice for their communities to adjust, and they have made their own attempts to address the issue.

Comitta’s bill appears to be inspired by one that Philadelphia City Council passed in 2019 to prevent rapid closures like at Hahnemann University Hospital. Delaware County Council passed an identical emergency ordinance in April to address potential Crozer Health hospital closures.

“Abrupt announcements and a lack of transparency around recent hospital closures left many people searching for answers concerning the future of critical health services in their community,” Comitta said.

Her bill also aims to establish more comprehensive standards for procedure and notification of a hospital closure. It also adds requirements for an approved closing plan and health equity impact assessment. A hospital would be obligated to submit that to the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General.

On top of that, it would require that hospital systems go through public hearings and data collection before any planned closure.

“While we cannot reverse previous actions taken by emergency service providers, these reform measures bring Pennsylvanians towards a more transparent view of our healthcare system,” Comitta said.

Pennsylvania is one of just a little more than a dozen states that does not have regulatory mechanisms for handling hospital acquisitions and closures. And communities across the commonwealth have suffered in recent years due to a lack of state hospital regulation.

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Crozer Health’s parent company, Prospect Medical Holdings, has an extensive track record of draining millions from its hospitals nationwide. Crozer’s recent financial hardships trace back to a business deal that Prospect initiated in 2019 — one that watchdog organizations alerted Pennsylvania officials about, however, the state was helpless to stop it.

Delaware County legislators responded to tumultuous conditions within Crozer by introducing a series of proposed bills in June intended to “deter private equity from abusing Pennsylvania health care systems in the future.”

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