US Republicans criticize Democrats over repurposing of Delaware County Memorial Hospital

10:20  28 september  2022
10:20  28 september  2022 Source:   delcotimes.com

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Sep. 27—UPPER DARBY — With the backdrop of an approaching election, Delaware County Republican leaders and candidates criticized county Democrats for not doing enough to keep Delaware County Memorial Hospital from closing.

"Maybe the elected officials will get off their rear end and come forward and do something to help these employees and to help this community," Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Thomas McGarrigle said. "What are we doing with these dedicated workers? They don't care. What are we doing with the 82,000 residents that live in Upper Darby Township that need this facility? They don't care."

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Last Wednesday, Crozer Health announced that Delaware County Memorial Hospital would be closing in 60 days to be transformed into a behavioral health facility by next spring. Employees at the hospital were also given layoff notices last week.

Crozer Health CEO Anthony Esposito said this change and others in the system were needed as the industry is transitioning from inpatient to outpatient needs.

On Tuesday, Republican leaders and candidates gathered in front of Delaware County Memorial Hospital to criticize all levels of government within the county for not doing enough.

"People in Harrisburg and in Washington should have called special meetings to stop this until we get the right answers," McGarrigle said. "They need to do what they were elected to do and protect the people in this district and protect the workers in this district ... Maybe the elected officials will get off their rear end and come forward and do something to help these employees and help this community."

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The GOP leader spoke about the county health department.

"Since the Democrats have taken over, they created a multi-million dollar health department and since the health department has been established, we've seen the closure of Springfield (Hospital) emergency room in Springfield in the center of the county," McGarrigle said. "Now, you're seeing the closure of this hospital."

County's response

In response, Delaware County Council issued this statement:

"The Republican Party's press conference regarding Crozer is purely political and did not provide factual information or useful suggestions to improve access to affordable, high quality health care in the county. The county doesn't run Crozer and merely demanding it stays open is meaningless. What we can do, and did do, was take swift action to work with Crozer to minimize the impact of the closure and ensure that services remain available to our residents. The county has met with members of Crozer Health leadership multiple times since being notified of their intentions to discontinue services."

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The statement said council has been attempting to get more answers about the situation.

"The County, through its lawyers, has been in touch with Crozer Health, seeking additional and clarifying information regarding the Plan for Reorganization," it said. "If that information is not forthcoming, or does not address the County's concerns, the County Solicitor will likely take action to enforce the ordinance passed by County Council in April 2022, requiring 180 days advance notice for hospital closings."

The statement also addressed the health department comments.

"The political press conference cited a correlation between the establishment of a County Health Department and hospital closures," Council's statement read. "There is no correlation and it is merely an attack on the creation of a County Health Department, which the Republican Party has vocally opposed for several years. The newly created Delaware County Health Department has already helped expand access to health care in communities, furthering council's commitment to the health and safety of all residents."

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Back and forth, round 1

Dave Galluch, Republican candidate for the 5th U.S. Congressional District, also questioned the department's effectiveness. The county health department officially started in April.

"The first thing that happens out of the gate is we move backwards in public health outcomes," he said. "We're closing an ER, which services the most vulnerable populations in Delaware County."

Galluch spoke about money spent on legal matters.

"I think it says a lot about the priorities of this county government that since they've taken power, they're now spending over $4 million in outside legal bills, much of that connected with standing up this health department," he said.

He asked about the $75 million Prospect Medical Holdings received in relief funds during the pandemic. Of that, he said, $22 million was allocated for Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

"Where was congresswoman (Mary Gay) Scanlon making sure that this money was spent how it was supposed to be spent?" he said. "We need to be focused on local outcomes, what's best for people here at home, not what's happening in D.C., not in Harrisburg."

Scanlon, D-5, of Swarthmore said she's been leading the effort to watch over Prospect for more than two years.

"While the Republican Party is championing a plan to take away hard-earned Medicare and Social Security benefits from Pennsylvanians, I've been in Congress fighting for resources to come to our hospitals during the pandemic and ensuring accountability on the part of for-profit entities like Prospect," she said. "I co-led the charge to conduct oversight of Prospect Health starting in 2020, and am always committed to bringing health resources to our district, as I did recently by securing a mobile health unit for Delaware County."

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Scanlon said that work will carry on.

"Our office will continue to work with local elected officials and health care systems to ensure that the people of our region have access to affordable, quality care," the congresswoman said.

Campaign contributions

Ken Rucci, the Republican candidate for the 163rd House District, also asked about the relief funds.

"Where is the accountability for this? Crozer received $72 million in COVID relief and $22 million of that was allocated for this hospital," he said. "How can we as taxpayers allow institutions to receive millions of dollars in aid for such critical services and then turn around and shut them down leaving the residents in the wake? How can this happen?"

Frank Agovino, a Republican running in the 26th state Senate race, said his foe, the incumbent state Sen. Tim Kearney of Swarthmore, took campaign contributions from Prospect Medical.

"So although Sen. Kearney has railed against the owners of this health care system, he did, in fact, take a donation from Prospect, from the owners of this health care system," Agovino said. "And, I would implore Sen. Kearney to give that donation back to charity of his choice. It's certainly not good optics for him to accept the donation from such an organization that is looking to close this hospital."

He continued, "To have allowed this to get to this point where we're talking about the closure of a Delaware County treasure is certainly a failure in leadership."

Kearney admitted to accepting Prospect funds previously, but stopped once major changes were being made within the health system.

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"Prospect has contributed to my campaigns in the past, but when they started closing segments of our hospital system, I spoke out, opposed it, and wrote legislation to stop things like this in the future," the senator said. "I have not taken contributions from them since and will not in the future. Prospect knows where I stand on their actions disrupting our healthcare system and our communities and so do the people of Delaware County."

In June, Kearney led a press conference outlining a package of for-profit health care reform legislation aimed to prevent private equity from severely harming hospital systems.

Nurse's view

Dina Oliver is an intensive care unit nurse who was transferred from Delaware County Memorial Hospital to Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland in May when her unit was shut down. She had held that position for 29 years.

On Tuesday, she attended the press conference as a show of support to those at DCMH.

"Once I came here, I never went anywhere else because it was such a family, everyone from administration down," she said, adding that she's been a nurse for 36 years. "The team at Crozer has been absolutely wonderful but these are my best friends for 30 years. It's been really difficult."

She asked why the emergency room and other services couldn't remain open at Delaware County Memorial Hospital and have a behavioral health center there. She said the facility itself is large enough to accommodate both.

"It's so sad," she said. "Honestly, it's been very stressful ... Some of the nurses that stayed here, they didn't want to believe that they were going to do this to us. I almost came back."

Oliver expressed concern for those that come to DCMH for help.

"This community relies on this hospital," Oliver said. "We see a lot of the same families. They don't have a way to get to the hospital. A lot of them walk on foot. There's a lot of homeless. There's a lot of people who don't have the means to get here."

'At a disadvantage now'

Upper Darby Township Councilwoman Lisa Faraglia said she didn't think it's an appropriate place to have a behavioral health facility between Upper Darby High School and Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast High School.

"While I support the promotion of the treatment of mental health and have great empathy for those struggling with the issues in that area, I'm concerned about putting this facility of a psychiatric treatment between two schools," she said.

Dr. John E. Cooke, president of the 837-student Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School, expressed his own concerns about the situation.

"This hospital serves the needs of our community," he said. "Something happens to one of our students, this is where we would go for an emergency."

His school has a medical careers program in which students would go to Delaware County Memorial Hospital in the morning to learn more about this industry. There were 11 students active in the program although three have dropped out since Wednesday's announcement about the hospital closing. Cooke has said the school is working to provide space for the program.

He also noted that before COVID, his school did an active shooter drill in conjunction with the Upper Darby Police Department and Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

"We had plans with them. We worked with them," Cooke said.

The president also noted the impact on the families at his school.

"It's our kids' families that live in these community that will be at a disadvantage now," Cooke said.

(c)2022 Daily Times, Primos, Pa. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Oct. 7—MEDIA — There was about a four-hour hearing Friday on the injunction filed to to suspend the closure of Delaware County Memorial Hospital and the judge in the case said he would rule next week on the matter. On Sept. 28, CKHS Inc. and the Foundation for Delaware County filed an emergency injunction against Prospect Medical Holdings Inc. and Prospect Crozer LLC for a pause in plans to close the hospital, ending regular hospitals services and reopen it as a behavioral health facility.

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