Pashinski, O’Mara introduce legislation with bipartisan support to reform hospital closure process

HARRISBURG, Sept. 23 – State Reps. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, and Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware, introduced legislation on Friday that would bring more accountability to the process of hospital closures to ensure that Pennsylvanians can receive uninterrupted care and that hospital systems must 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. 1324, introduced earlier this month.

“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’re witnessing this firsthand in Luzerne County with the sudden announcement that First Hospital intends to close by October 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.”

“Pennsylvania law needs to improve how it handles for-profit health systems, especially during shutdowns,” O’Mara said. “We need more time to study to find out the impact that closures have on communities, as well as on what would be in store for Pennsylvania as a state if we continue allowing business as usual. The decision to let go of thousands of people in a health care environment has ripple effects that are big enough to change entire neighborhoods and towns for generations. These closures put people on public services without much notice at all.

“Moreover, a 90-day notice, which is all that’s required under current law, is not enough time for communities to arrange new health care providers to serve hundreds of thousands of people. Especially when it comes to health care, it should be harder to shut down a hospital than it is to restructure and try again.”

House Bill 2849 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 for bringing this solution forward and to Representative O’Mara and all of our bipartisan group of co-sponsors in the House,” Pashinski said. “As I stated earlier this year, 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 15 co-sponsors and awaits referral to committee.