Pennsylvania lawmakers want 6 months' notice before a hospital closes

A pair of Pennsylvania state representatives have drafted legislation designed to prevent abrupt hospital closures by doubling the time in which a health system must notify state and local agencies of a planned closure. 

State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski and Jennifer O'Mara's House Bill 158 doubles the time in which a system must notify state and local agencies of a planned closure from 90 to 180 days. The lawmakers pointed to specific hospital closures over the past year that, while abiding by the current state law of 90 days' notice, they deemed abrupt. 

"When hospitals and health care facilities close or drastically reduce services with little or no notice, their patients, doctors, nurses, and staff suffer," Mr. Pashinski said. "We witnessed this in Luzerne County last year with the sudden announcement and subsequent closure of First Hospital without any apparent plans in place to provide for continuity of care or help their staff transition."

First Hospital, based in Kingston, Pa., announced in August 2022 that it planned to close its doors by Oct. 30, 2023. 

“Moving forward, it's important that state law better prioritizes public health by giving communities more time to arrange new health care services. My district struggled with this, but the 90-day notice for the closure of Delaware County Memorial Hospital followed Pennsylvania law. Therefore, our bill aims to change this to a 180-day notice to allow for a smoother transition while ensuring everyone can still access quality health care.” 

Springfield, Pa.-based Crozer Health's plan to close 168-bed Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill, Pa., by Nov. 20 was further complicated by alleged violations of health regulations, which prompted an order in early November from the state's health department to bar admissions and suspend emergency room services.

House Bill 158 also contains comprehensive standards for procedure and notification of a planned closure, requirements for an approved Closing Plan and Health Equity Impact Assessment to be submitted to the Department of Health and state attorney general, and calls for increased community input, data collection, public comment and public hearings prior to closure.

The bill has 17 co-sponsors and awaits referral to committee. The legislation is a companion to state Sen. Carolyn Comitta's Sensate Bill 184, which was introduced in January.

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