Hearing addresses corporate consolidation of health care facilities in Northeastern PA

When done poorly, consolidation negatively impacts patient care and hospital workers

STROUDSBURG, Oct. 18 – Hospital systems consolidate for various reasons and, as they continue adapting to the changing market, communities are impacted. COVID-19 accelerated changes in ways that forced community hospitals like St. Luke’s University Health Network and other hospitals serving the Northeastern Pennsylvania region to change their business model. 

The Northeast Delegation Chairwoman, Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee hearing in Stroudsburg Monday afternoon discussing corporate consolidation of health care facilities so that elected officials can learn more about the issue. 

“I’m so grateful to those who testified today so that we can learn and understand how we as a legislature can support our communities and health systems,” Madden said. “As a state representative, I have partnered with St. Luke’s to create a level of medical care that has not been available here in the mountains. It’s so important that when consolidation happens, we do it with this in mind so that we can maintain the high quality of care that residents here receive.” 

House Members in attendance heard testimony from two panels. The first panel consisted of three professionals who work in or closely with hospitals who commented on market pressures and why systems are forced to consolidate. Testifiers in the first panel included John Nespoli, President, St. Luke’s University Health Network; Maggie Murphy, CEO, National Alliance on Mental Illness – Lehigh Valley; and Margo Opsasnick, CEO, Delta Medix. 

“In my district, there are issues where profit motives take the lead over other considerations,” said Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer. “We need to think innovatively to see how technological advancements can make less profitable areas more profitable so that systems have other options other than consolidations.” 

A second panel consisted of testimony from the perspective of patients and hospital staff, including Kristen Volchansky, Political Organizer, Action Together NEPA, and Maddie Lopez-Vazquez, Health Unit Coordinator, Lehigh Valley Hospital – Pocono. Their testimonies focused on how consolidations impact the quality care they provide to – and receive as – patients. Compelling testimony from Lopez-Vazquez explained how staff were let go and an immense amount of pressure put on remaining staff after a consolidation she experienced. 

“This topic is incredibly important to our Caucus, which is proven by the fact that this is the second hearing on this topic that we’ve held on the eastern side of the state,” said Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie. “I want to thank all the testifiers and members who participated today in this important conversation.” 

Additional written testimony came from representatives from Geisinger and the PA Health Access Network. All testimonies can be found at pahouse.com/policycommittee