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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court will weigh in on a case involving shuttered services at Delaware County Memorial Hospital and an ongoing legal battle with its parent company, Prospect Medical Holdings.
The state’s highest court will review a lower appellate court’s ruling earlier this year, which upheld Prospect’s decision to close the emergency department and inpatient units at its Drexel Hill facility in November 2022.
The Foundation for Delaware County is suing hospital owners to reopen services at the hospital, which is part of the Crozer Health System.
“When the Pa. Supreme Court makes the 1 in 500 cases decision to hear an appeal, it just confirms what we’ve known all along: Prospect Medical Holdings’ decision to close DCMH created irreparable harm to the community, and an injunction needs to be issued,” said Frances Sheehan, president of the Foundation for Delaware County.
Prospect Medical Holdings has been under intense legal scrutiny since last fall for its plan to close DCMH and transition it into a behavioral health facility.
The Foundation for Delaware County has been leading legal opposition to the change in services. The community foundation was created during the initial sale of the Crozer-Keystone Health System to Prospect in 2016.
In its lawsuit, the foundation argues that Prospect agreed to maintain acute care services in each of the four hospitals that make up the Crozer Health system for at least 10 years.
A trial court granted a preliminary injunction in October 2022, temporarily halting the closure of DCMH. But the hospital proceeded to shutter services due to staffing shortage concerns from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
The case garnered the attention of then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who demanded a court hold Prospect in contempt for violating the injunction.
Then, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in May overturned the lower trial court’s decision and voided the preliminary injunction. The Foundation of Delaware County appealed.
“We’re of course hopeful that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will overturn the decision of the Commonwealth Court, reinstate the preliminary injunction, and require Prospect to take the steps that it needs to take to reopen the emergency room at Delaware County Memorial Hospital,” said attorney Rocco Imperatrice, who represents the foundation.
In October, the two parties reached an unofficial deal to pause ongoing litigation and open a 270-day window in which Prospect must move to sell its financially struggling Crozer system.
That agreement is pending final review and approval by visiting Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas Senior Judge Cheryl Lynne Austin.
It’s unclear what effect a decision from the state Supreme Court will have on that pending agreement, Imperatrice said.
“The decision by the Pa. Commonwealth Court denying the preliminary injunction remains in effect,” said hospital officials in a written statement. “The Supreme Court will render its decision on this appeal many months from now. We look forward to advancing our position before the Supreme Court as we did successfully before the Commonwealth Court.”
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