Crozer Health, Prospect unable to pay for ambulance repairs

A spokesperson for Crozer Health said it is working to address the issue and expects the vehicles to be “returned to service over the course of two weeks.”

Crozer-Chester Medical Center is one of the Crozer Health's four hospitals

Crozer-Chester Medical Center is one of the Crozer Health's four hospitals. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY News)

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Crozer Health’s fleet of ambulances are aging and in desperate need of repair. Prospect Medical Holdings, Crozer’s parent company, has been unable to pay the bills.

Crozer’s ambulances cover approximately 70% of Delaware County. The union representing the struggling hospital system’s assistant chiefs, paramedic, and emergency medical technicians said patient care could be negatively impacted.

“The current bill that we have with one of the only vendors that’s willing to work on our fleet, who happens to be a member of the community, is owed in the excess of close to $120,000. So at this time, he has put us on hold and will not work on any of the vehicles,” said Kate Denney, a paramedic for Crozer EMS. “So we don’t have any backups because we have several vehicles sitting waiting to be worked on. So all of our backups are being used. If those backups fail, then we have to put units in certain parts of the community out of service, which means that can delay patient care.”

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Denney, who serves as the secretary and treasurer for the Crozer Chester Paramedics Association, said five ambulances and two chase cars are currently sitting in the mechanic’s lot waiting to be fixed.

The ambulance fleet is quite old and has racked up a ton of mileage.

“It is older than probably a good portion of the people who work for us. They’re vehicles from the ‘90s with an excess of 200,000 miles on them. They are vehicles that have parts that are obsolete and we have mechanics that are pretty hard to find to work on that fleet,” Denney said.

According to Denney, Crozer has exhausted all other nearby repair options.

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“We have used several mechanics throughout the county and because of our history with the on prompt payments, nobody’s willing to work with us,” Denney said.

Crozer and Prospect have been struggling to pay bills for vital services at times in recent months. If an ambulance gets pulled from service due to a lack of repairs, Denney said the ambulance’s coverage area will have to get assistance from a neighboring unit that’s willing to come in and transport a patient.

Denney has recently corresponded with Crozer leadership about the issue and the message that she has received in response is essentially, “EMS is here to stay.”

Prospect recently completed a corporate-level refinancing move with the help of Sidley Austin LLP in order to improve the company’s financial outlook.

A Crozer spokesperson told WHYY News in a statement that the restructuring was “successful” and denied any rumors of bankruptcy.

“Now that the refinancing has been completed, our engagement with Sidley Austin is being concluded. Prospect has not considered any actions related to a bankruptcy filing. As stated in the press release, the new financings provide Prospect with liquidity, and the favorable mortgage terms offered by [Medical Properties Trust] will be important in assisting Crozer Health to stabilize its finances for the future,” the statement read.

Up until recently, Medical Properties Trust (MPT) owned the land that Crozer’s hospitals stand on. Prospect sold Crozer’s real estate to MPT in 2019 for $420 million. The deal had Crozer essentially paying a hefty rent upwards of $35 million a year, according to The Inquirer. But now amid financial struggles, MPT is selling the land back to Prospect in exchange for a five-year $155 million mortgage, with a two-year deferment of payment.

Regarding the emergency vehicles, Crozer’s spokesperson said the situation is a work in progress.

“The repairs to the ambulance fleet are ongoing and we expect most of them to [be] returned to service over the course of two weeks. We continue to work with our vendors to meet our obligations as we continue to stabilize the finances for Crozer Health,” the statement read.

Denney said her and her fellow EMS staff have due diligence to the community in their time of need and that Prospect’s history of questionable fiscal choices is “going to put people in harm’s way,” if this problem is not resolved quickly.

“I know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we need to make this a priority,” Denney said.

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