Delco sues Prospect Medical, Crozer hospitals to keep behavioral health services open

Crozer has promised officials it will temporarily stop the closure of the behavioral health services at Delaware County Memorial and Crozer-Chester as a gesture of good faith.

A sign and entrance are visible for a tan brick building.

Crozer-Chester Medical Center's community campus. (Kenny Cooper/WHYY News)

Delaware County is suing Crozer Health and its parent company, Prospect Medical Holdings, for planning to close the mental and behavioral health units at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Delaware County Memorial Hospital in June.

The county filed the preliminary injunction on Wednesday, asking that the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas find that “the need for relief is immediate.”

In response to the lawsuit, Crozer Health has agreed to keep the services, previously planned for termination, open temporarily while the parties negotiate, according to State Rep. Mike Zabel.

WHYY News reached out to the chair of Delaware County Council, Dr. Monica Taylor, for comment, but she did not immediately respond.

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“With regard to the closures, what Prospects [and] Crozer told us today was that they are going to stop the closure of the behavioral health services as a gesture of good faith, while the fee for those services are being negotiated,” Zabel said.

Zabel added that he welcomes the negotiations that will happen between the county and the companies. He emphasized that Crozer’s promise is focused solely on keeping mental health services open — the health system has not agreed to restore already shuttered services.

Zabel credits the hard work of county officials in getting this outcome. And while he said he now has “some very cautious optimism” about the state of behavioral health services in Delco, he will remain vigilant.

“That’s certainly not bad news, but we’ve been burned by this type of promise from Crozer, Prospect before,” Zabel said.

A spokesperson for Delaware County responded to a WHYY News inquiry for comment with a statement.

“The County has proceeded on the multiple tracks of identifying alternative providers of the services Prospect-Crozer has threatened to terminate, continuing our negotiations with Prospect-Crozer, while also seeking an injunction to block its sudden decisions to close. If the preliminary indications we have received, that Prospect-Crozer has reversed its plans for mid- June termination of service, prove to be accurate, we are gratified, and will continue working to ensure that essential services stay available to all County residents,” the statement read.

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Crozer CEO Kevin Spiegel told health system employees that the behavioral and mental health units would not be immediately closing in June, as originally planned, during a virtual meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

In his comments to Crozer workers, Spiegel said he made the decision to keep the services open after meeting with county leadership and feeling “hopeful” that they would provide funding to the health system, according to Peggy Malone, president of the Crozer-Chester Nurses Association (CCNA), one of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) union locals within the system.

“And he said that Crozer was doing well,” said Malone, who was listening in on the meeting over the phone. “Still losing money, however, but improving every day, and growing as an organization.”

Employee reaction to Spiegel’s news was not jubilation, Malone said.

“I hate to speculate, but I don’t think he got the reaction that he expected. A lot of the health care workers on the call were angry. They were angry. They had a lot of questions,” Malone said.

Malone added that promises from Crozer for more details have not been met.

“He said that he would have sent us a letter by day’s end [Thursday], outlining the plan and specifying exactly which services — and we’ve not received that,” Malone said.

CCNA was also scheduled to meet with Spiegel Thursday afternoon. He didn’t show up.

“I have received confirmation from our HR department that he’ll meet with us next week,” Malone said.

WHYY News reached out to Spiegel for comment, but he did not immediately respond.

Malone said that staying hopeful is what is best for the patients, and that the county is helping steer the ship to ensure that it avoids a full-blown crisis.

“I think we couldn’t do it without them and they are looking into all kinds of alternatives or services. They’re making sure that there’s a backup plan for these patients in the event that the services aren’t reinstated,” Malone said.

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