Pashinski, O’Mara re-introduce legislation to reform hospital closure process

HARRISBURG, March 8 – State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, and Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware, introduced legislation recently that would bring more accountability to the process of hospital closures, ensuring that Pennsylvanians can receive uninterrupted care and that hospital systems honor their duty to their patients, staff, and the communities they serve.

The legislation is a companion to state Sen. Carolyn Comitta’s S.B. 184, introduced in January.

“When hospitals and health care facilities close or drastically reduce services with little or no notice, their patients, doctors, nurses, and staff suffer,” 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. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would be a significant step toward ensuring health care facilities planning to close provide local communities and government agencies the time, information, and opportunity they need to adequately address these significant impacts and plan for related challenges.”

“When a community hospital closes down, hundreds of thousands of people suddenly need to figure out how to access emergency health care. This especially applies to maternity wards, because if one of only two local labor and delivery units moves 30 minutes away, it creates a health care desert - especially for women. This can cause maternal, infant and child health to suffer while displacing staff,” O’Mara said. “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.” 

House Bill 158 doubles the time in which a hospital system must notify state and local agencies of a planned closure from 90 to 180 days. In addition, the legislation establishes more comprehensive standards for procedure and notification of a planned closure. It also includes requirements for an approved Closing Plan and Health Equity Impact Assessment to be submitted to the Department of Health and state attorney general. And it calls for increased community input, data collection, public comment, and public hearings prior to closure.

“I am deeply grateful to Senator Comitta and to Representative O’Mara for their continued commitment to reforming the hospital closure process for their communities and our commonwealth,” Pashinski said. “As I’ve stated previously, I’m ready and willing to work with anyone – Republican, Democrat, or independent – to find solutions to this problem and prevent it from happening again in the future.”

The bill has 17 co-sponsors and awaits referral to committee.