Rally and legislative session address decreasing services at Delaware County Memorial Hospital

UPPER DARBY – Before there were shouts of “Save Our Hospital!” along Lansdowne Avenue in…

UPPER DARBY – Before there were shouts of “Save Our Hospital!” along Lansdowne Avenue in a rally at Delaware County Memorial Hospital Wednesday, state legislators held a hearing to address the impact that reduced medical services at the facility and others will have on the community.

At Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast High School, state Reps. Gina Curry, D-164, and Mike Zabel, D-164, both of Upper Darby, held a Pennsylvania House Democratic Committee hearing on maternity deserts created through Crozer Health’s closure of Delaware County Memorial Hospital’s obstetrics unit in January despite more than 1,800 babies being born there last year.

With that, only two hospitals remain in the county – Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland and Riddle Hospital in Middletown – that provide maternity services.

At the hearing, DCMH Emergency Room nurse and president of the Delaware County Nurses Association Angela Neopolitano said, “What has happened to this hospital and ultimately to the patient community over the last few months feels like a nightmare that we can’t wake up from.”

She said the closure of the maternity unit has left the most populated region of Delaware County – Upper Darby, Darby, Woodlyn, Lansdowne and Yeadon – without maternal or neonatal care in their communities.

“The closure puts the most vulnerable residents with the fewest travel options at risk,” Neopolitano said. “By forcing them to travel farther, you’re increasing the risk of adverse outcomes … You just force these patients to seek care elsewhere, swamping a system that is already struggling and endangering the people of Delaware County.”

Now, she said when a mother in labor comes into DCMH’s emergency room, an ambulance is summoned to take her elsewhere.

Rosemarie Halt, chair of Delaware County’s Board of Health, said county officials were told that the obstetrics practice with seven doctors would remain at Delaware County Memorial Hospital yet that practice is now closing.

“Delaware County, as much as some of the rural parts of our state, are now entering an era in the most wealthiest country in the world, that many women will not have access to maternity care,” she said. “We’re going backwards.”

The county department, which officially opened last month, will be collecting data to assess the situation, however, Halt said, “What we’re worried about is the here and now.”

Halt said approximately 6,000 births of Delaware County occur every year – half of which are actually delivered in the county and the other half in surrounding counties.

In addition, Theresa Pettaway, founder and executive director of the Pettaway Pursuit Foundation Inc., spoke of the equitable gap for maternal care.

“In fact, the United States has the highest maternal fatality rate among developed countries,” she said. “Across American, Black women are three to four times more likely to have childbirth-related deaths.”

In Philadelphia, she said, Black women make up 43 percent of birthing mothers but 73 percent of pregnancy-related deaths as she added that Delaware County mirrors similar metrics.

From the hearing, the legislators walked next door to join Pennsylvania Association of Nurses and Allied Professionals’ nurses, technical specialists and professionals in an informational picket to protest the severity of cuts and out of concern that Delaware County Memorial Hospital will be closed. A similar picket was held outside Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland last week.

“This is our home, this is our neighborhood and this is our hospital, not Prospect’s,” Zabel said, pointing to DCMH. “Prospect, let me tell you about Prospect. They are a health care vampire. All they care about is sucking the resources out of a system and then high-tailing it back to California with their profits.”

He said Prospect takes advantage of the employees who care about their patients.

“They don’t treat you fairly,” Zabel said. “They count on your good will to do more with less at this hospital. But we’re going to call it what it is – they are stripping DCMH down to parts. If this were a patient, they would go to jail for what they are doing. You can’t cut off every service that this hospital offers one by one … and then go, ‘Well, it’s not really viable.’ You did that, Prospect! Open it back up! Open this hospital back up.”

Zabel, whose district includes the hospital, said it was time to end the practice of having for-profit entities run health care systems, adding he and state Sen. John Kane, D-9, of Birmingham, were drafting legislation that would ban for-profit entities from owning these systems in Pennsylvania.

Zabel offered Prospect a message: “We don’t give up without a fight and you’ve got the fight of your life.”

Noting how these hospital employees have helped the community for decades, Curry repeated a sentiment shared at the legislative hearing.

“We now have a desert in Delaware County for maternity,” she said. “That’s unacceptable. We need our maternity care back because without maternity care, we can’t pay attention to the social determinants of health that keep us healthy.

“At the end of the day, all we want is to build a legacy for our families, we want the best for our families and we want a place that we can call home that will protect us in any need that we have,” Curry continued. “Prospect, shame on you. We need our hospital.”

Crozer Health did not respond to a request for comment.

In April, the day after Delaware County Council passed an emergency ordinance requiring additional notice for medical service closures or significant reductions, Crozer Health issued a letter saying that the substance abuse clinic at DCMH would close June 10 and the “First Steps” inpatient acute substance abuse and addiction unit at Crozer-Chester Medical Center would close a day later.

In addition, the Crisis Center at CCMC would close, along with all mental health and substance abuse treatment services at the Community Campus in Chester, including school-based services, intake, assessment and referral, case management, and psychiatric rehabilitation is set to close June 19.

This comes after Crozer is set to close the intensive care unit and surgery unit at Delaware County Memorial Hospital at the end of the month and after at least seven municipalities were sent letters notifying them of termination of paramedic services if a financial arrangement isn’t made.

In February, Crozer Health closed its inpatient hospice unit at Taylor Hospital in Ridley Park due to the need for patient safety, declining admissions to inpatient hospice and challenges presented by the national nursing shortage and in January, the emergency department, pathology, lab and medical imaging services were suspended at Springfield Hospital.

Also in February, Crozer Health’s parent company, the Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc., signed a letter of intent with non-profit ChristianaCare Health System Inc. to acquire the Delaware County system. That acquisition is anticipated to be completed by the end of the year.

 

Health care crisis at Delaware County Memorial Hospital takes center stage