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Appeals Court Clears the Way for Closure or Repurposing of Delaware County Memorial Hospital

A Pennsylvania appellate court on Wednesday removed a Common Pleas order that barred the closure or repurposing of Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

The appeals panel found the contract for the hospital’s sale and testimony from a county official did not preclude the sale or show that any immediate harm would occur.

The Foundation for Delaware County had sought an emergency injunction to suspend Crozer Health’s planned closure of Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Rather than the county, the foundation filed the litigation because it was the legal party to the hospital system’s sale.

The foundation is the county’s largest charitable foundation, and it was created from the sale of the Crozer-Keystone Health System to Prospect Medical Holdings in 2016. Part of that agreement required Prospect to maintain acute care services at its four hospitals for 10 years or until June 30, 2026, the foundation said.

“We are very disappointed in the decision. Our primary concern has always been the health and well-being of the residents of eastern Delaware County,” said Foundation President Frances M. Sheehan in reaction to the appellate court ruling.” We believe there has already been significant repercussions for the people in the hospital’s surrounding area. We are regrouping and deciding on our next steps.”

Delaware County officials declined to comment.

“We are pleased by the court’s ruling and look forward to the conversion of Delaware County Memorial Hospital to a Behavioral Health Hospital to meet the needs of the community,” said Lori Bookbinder, a spokesperson for Crozer Health.

Previously, Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D., said, “Closing Delaware County Memorial would be catastrophic for our residents that have depended on its services for generations. And over 300 high-quality jobs would be lost due to this hastily announced plan, developed without input from the county. It is an unacceptable course of action by Prospect Crozer, and the county remains committed to ensuring that the public health needs of our residents are a priority over the financial considerations of a for-profit corporation.”

According to published reports, Crozer Health, which owns four hospitals in Delaware County, laid off some 215 employees in March. It is said to be struggling to pay its bills.

Last September, Crozer Health announced plans to convert Delaware County Memorial Hospital to a behavioral health institution. Previously, county council members said they were concerned about that plan because it could limit access to health care in the county’s eastern section.


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Attorney General Asks Court to Levy Heavy Fine on Prospect Crozer

They say money talks.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Delaware County Council, and the Foundation for Delaware County are hoping that a $ 100,000-a-day fine will induce Prospect Crozer to change its stance and reopen the emergency room at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

Shapiro filed an order to show cause Tuesday, asking Judge Robert Shenkin to find the hospital company, which wants to turn Delaware County Memorial Hospital into a mental health facility, in contempt for violating his earlier orders. The judge had ordered the healthcare provider to stop any efforts to close the hospital on Oct. 11 and enjoined it to keep emergency care intact on Oct. 28.

But the state Department of Health ordered the hospital to close its ER on Nov. 7, finding it had failed to maintain adequate staffing. The fine would begin Nov. 7 and would total $800,000 to date, if imposed by the judge.

In a joint press release, the county and foundation said, “The original order of the court was clear: Keep DCMH open. The action of Prospect Crozer to seek to circumvent this order, by failing to properly staff the hospital is shameful, and consistent with its recent actions, which put private profit as the singular focus of its operations, without regard to contractual commitments, or considerations of the health and safety of residents of Delaware County.

“The Foundation looks forward to working with the attorney general and the Courts of this commonwealth to ensure that Prospect Crozer meets its contractual and community obligations.”

Some other area ERs reportedly saw a 20 percent increase in patient visits since Delaware County Memorial closed its doors.

“As you can imagine, that is a severe concern to the county, to the tens of thousands of residents who live in this section of the county, to the nurses and medical staff who treat the community here at the hospital, and to the EMS members who transport residents here for lifesaving care. In a lifesaving situation, seconds can save a life,” Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D. said previously.

And Frances Sheehan, foundation president, said the foundation was formed six years ago when Prospect Medical Holdings, the parent company of Crozer Medical, bought the hospital. Prospect agreed to keep ER services through 2026 but “has not honored that commitment to the community.”

“It is fair to say that Prospect’s violation of this court’s injunction constitutes indirect civil contempt,” the attorney general wrote.

Lawyers for Prospect Crozer had appealed the trial court’s orders to Commonwealth Court.

Tony Esposito, Prospect CEO, said, “While we are aware of today’s statement and petition, it is worth noting that we remain under the directive of a Department of Health order.  The order required emergency room services be suspended and new admissions be discontinued at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. Violating this order comes with its own penalties.

Given these facts, we continue to comply with the DOH’s order and disagree with contentions of the petition mentioned in today’s statement.”

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