Pa. lawmakers come to Philadelphia seeking answers on Gosnell clinic

Pennsylvania lawmakers came to Philadelphia Thursday looking for answers about Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic.  The West Philadelphia clinic was shut down and Gosnell is facing murder charges in the death of a patient and seven late term babies.  The Senate committee is looking into how better oversight could have stopped Gosnell earlier.Republican state Sen. John Eichelberger, who opposes abortion, said he wanted to hold the hearing in Philadelphia so he could get a better feel for the neighborhood, and figure out how to prevent a repeat of the Gosnell case.”Everybody in authority dropped the ball, just virtually everybody from the hospitals to other doctors that knew what was going on to certainly the city’s health department, the state’s health department, the state’s department of state, everybody that was involved dropped the ball,” said Eichelberger.But during the hearing, City Solicitor Shelley Smith repeatedly said the city should not be shouldering all the blame.  “The city of Philadelphia has no statutory or regulatory authority over healthcare facilities located in Philadelphia that function as abortion clinics,” said Smith.  “The regulatory and statutory authority over such facilities rests with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.  Which has the authority to license, investigate, and inspect said facilities.”Philadelphia Health Commissioner Donald Schwarz too pointed the finger at the state.”In 1997 the Department of Public Health in Philadelphia reported the Gosnell practice to the state and nothing happened,” said Schwarz.  “The state regulations don’t allow the city to be notified of the action taken and the investigation.  So there would be no way for the city to even know if the state acted or didn’t act and whether any correction was undertaken or should have been undertaken.”No one from the state health department testified.Schwarz said now his office is tracking the complaints filed with the state to see if action is taken.   Marsha Napper is a case manager with the People’s Emergency Center, a West Philadelphia social service agency for homeless women and children.  Napper said she thinks many of the clinic’s low-income African American patients didn’t know how to file a complaint and had no money pay a lawyer.  “I’d like to see change, drastic change immediately,” said Napper.  “This was a horrendously horrible scenario.  So it’s not going to happen again, cause we’re not going to let it happen again.”Lawmakers in Harrisburg are considering a number of bills that would change oversight regulations for abortion clinics, but they were not the main focus of the hearing.

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