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.”