|July 28, 2022 01:26 PM
|Senator Carolyn T. Comitta
|All Senate members
|Hospital Closure Reform
|When hospitals close their doors, they significantly impact Pennsylvania communities, often leading to a corresponding decline in community services, economic growth and development, and of course, overall public health and wellness. It is estimated that one hospital closure, on average, results in approximately $13 million in lost tax revenue for an impacted county. And the human toll can be far greater as vulnerable populations, including low-income residents, the elderly, children, and those with medical issues or health challenges, almost always bear the brunt of the burden that comes with disruptions in access to care.
In recent years, sudden hospital closures have occurred in rural, suburban, and urban communities across the Commonwealth, straining healthcare access for families, workers, and our aging population. The closures of multiple hospitals in the southeast have left residents and public officials searching for answers to a litany of questions like: where will residents receive critical care? How will ambulance companies and emergency professionals manage their jobs? And what can we do to prevent this from happening again?
Our legislation aims to offer solutions and prevent communities from being left in the lurch when hospitals abruptly decide to leave town. First, it 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, it also establishes more comprehensive standards for procedure and notification of a planned closure. It includes requirements for an approved Closing Plan and Health Equity Impact Assessment to be submitted to the Department of Health and Attorney General. And it calls for increased community input, data collection, public comment, and public hearings prior to closure.
An unexpected, often profit-driven decision to shutter a hospital can have a profound destabilizing influence across an entire region, including on neighboring hospitals and healthcare providers, especially in the era of COVID-19. Our bill aims to ensure that hospitals that plan to close give local and state agencies the time, information, and opportunity they need to adequately address these significant impacts and plan for related challenges.
Like doctors and those in the medical community, hospitals have a duty to “first do no harm.” This bill aims to help ensure they fully meet their commitment to the community – a community that must be supported and empowered to seek other options and solutions in the wake of a hospital closure.
Introduced as SB1324