Suburban Community Hospital in East Norriton to become ‘micro-hospital’ for emergency care

One registered nurse pointed to the changes as another example of health care divestment and reduction in services.

Sign at the entrance for Suburban Community Hospital

Suburban Community Hospital (Google maps)

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A community hospital in Montgomery County will be converted this summer into a smaller facility focused on emergency services, hospital owners announced this week.

Going forward, Suburban Community Hospital in East Norriton will be a “micro-hospital” with a 24/7 emergency department and at least 10 inpatient beds — a drop from the hospital’s current 126-bed capacity, according to state data.

The changes will take effect by mid-July. They were announced by the hospital’s parent company, Prime Healthcare Foundation, the public charity arm of the for-profit, California-based health system Prime Healthcare.

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Officials said their plan to tailor services at the location is an example “of efforts to further meet community needs.”

But Shannan Giambrone, an ICU registered nurse at Suburban Community Hospital, said this upcoming change is another example of health care divestment and reduction in services for the local community.

“This was a good, wonderful community hospital where the staff was invested in the community and the patients were invested back in the staff,” she said, “and now, [Prime] has just made it such a terrible situation and it’s heartbreaking.”

Giambrone and other registered nurses are unionized with the Suburban General Nurses Association, an affiliate of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals labor union.

Prime acquired the hospital in 2016. It originally included a 15-bed behavioral health unit for seniors. Union members criticized management’s decision to lay off most unit staff and stop accepting new patients last September.

Prime Healthcare officials said the behavioral health unit will formally be suspended “due to low demand” and “challenges in retaining qualified behavioral health providers.”

Other services that will be offered at the re-designed “micro-hospital” will include imaging, lab work, inpatient pharmacy and diagnostic testing.

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Patients who need higher levels of care for more serious medical needs will be transferred to other hospitals in the region. Suburban will have transfer agreements with Jefferson Einstein Philadelphia Hospital, Jefferson Einstein Montgomery Hospital, Temple Health – Chestnut Hill Hospital and Temple University Hospital.

People who need certain specialty care will also be transferred to Montgomery Subacute and Respiratory Center in Plymouth Meeting.

It is not yet clear how the changes at Suburban Community Hospital will affect staffing and positions. Giambrone said her nursing colleagues are nervous and waiting for answers on what happens next.

“They’re going to start to think, ‘Do I need to start looking elsewhere?’” she said.

Prime Healthcare also owns for-profit Roxborough Memorial Hospital and Lower Bucks Hospital. In addition to the changes at Suburban, officials said it will convert its other two Pennsylvania hospitals into nonprofit facilities under Prime Healthcare Foundation.

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