Outrage grows over closing of Delaware County Memorial Hospital

UPPER DARBY — As one of the 200 employees at the Delaware County Memorial Hospital, Angela Neopolitano received her dismissal notice as the hospital is scheduled to close in two months.

“I went in as a 21-year-old girl and I’m pushed out as a 62-year-old woman,” she said.

On Wednesday, Crozer Health announced that Delaware County Memorial Hospital will close in 60 days as part of its system-wide transformation plan to convert it into a 100-bed behavioral health center with a crisis unit, in-patient acute psychiatric care, acute detoxification/rehabilitation and geropsychiatry /Behavioural health of older people.

As part of that move, and following the announcement of the layoffs Wednesday morning, Crozer Health CEO Anthony Esposito said all Delaware County Memorial Hospital employees would be offered jobs elsewhere in the Crozer Health network and those who remained would receive bonus payments . He said there were nearly 600 open positions at Crozer Health.

On Thursday, Senator Tim Kearney, D-26th of Swarthmore, offered his thoughts on the hospital situation in a statement.

Senator Tim Kearney
State Senator Tim Kearney

“Crozer’s closure of the DCMH is a reprehensible abandonment of our communities and not only threatens the lives of patients near the hospital, but also the entire network of hospitals that have to admit patients who would have gone to the DCMH,” Kearney said. “This entirely avoidable closure could have been prevented if there had been legislation to protect our hospitals from private equity looters.

“Crozer’s move to close the DCMH threatens the integrity of our entire region’s hospital network by sending patients to other emergency rooms and departments,” the senator continued. “In the wealthiest country in the world, it is outrageous that we are unable to maintain basic health services due to looting and mismanagement. This country needs serious healthcare reform.”

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Upper Darby Mayor Barbarann ​​Keffer said officials remained in talks with Crozer to provide needed services to the community.

“There is an ongoing crisis in American healthcare, and of course we are disappointed that there is a loss of service in our community,” Keffer said. “However, we are having productive discussions at the highest level with Crozer and are pleased to report that ambulance service is continuing uninterrupted for all residents of Upper Darby and we are working together on the possibility of maintaining emergency services as well.”

She said her focus is on residents.

“Given the issues associated with for-profit healthcare, I will fight every day to provide the maximum level of healthcare to our residents,” added Keffer.

In addition to her role as an emergency room nurse, Neopolitano also serves as President of the Delaware County Memorial Hospital Nurses Association. A chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals representing 60 to 70 nurses at the Delco Memorial.

Delaware County Nurses Association President Angela Neopolitano at a May protest outside the Delaware County Memorial Hospital.  KATHLEEN E. CAREY—DAILY TIMES
Delaware County Nurses Association President Angela Neopolitano at a May protest outside the Delaware County Memorial Hospital. KATHLEEN E. CAREY – DAILY TIMES

“We are devastated”

Neopolitano said employees must reapply and the union conducts effect negotiations, which take place during a layoff.

“We saw the writing on the wall, but we never thought they would do that to the community,” she said. “It’s one of the largest townships in Pennsylvania, and they keep it high and dry. It’s a nightmare. It is a disaster and we are devastated.”

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Neopolitano described the scene at the Delaware County Memorial Hospital, where she said many of the staff have been there for a long time and care about the patients, the community and each other.

“It’s very sad,” she said. “People are crying… It’s just very sad. We don’t trust Prospect. We don’t trust them to do what is best for the community.”

Prospect Medical Holdings Inc. is the parent company of Crozer Health, which acquired the Delaware County-based system in July 2016.

“It’s not a great thing,” the union leader said of the move to Memorial. “It’s not. They just cut out of this community a hospital that’s been around for almost 100 years. We were a friendly community hospital. It’s sad. It’s sad. It just breaks my heart.”

She said the facility has a connection to the neighborhood as both patients and staff came to Upper Darby Hospital.

“Some people don’t have cars,” Neopolitano said. “It’s not easy to get close to Crozer or Taylor.”

Referring to other Crozer Health hospitals in Upland and Ridley Park, she noted there will be other impacts across the region.

“There will be a ripple effect,” Neopolitano said, adding that wait times in other emergency rooms will now be longer.

She said Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, about 2 miles away on Lansdowne Avenue, is often rerouted as, like all hospitals across the country, they are understaffed due to COVID and early retirements.

“You’re already packed,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re going to do. I feel sorry for the Fitz nurses. I feel sorry for the patients.”

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That’s not all

She had her own questions on the subject.

Neopolitano questioned whether there should be a detoxification center between two high schools: Upper Darby High School and Archbishop Prendergast and Monsignor Bonner High School.

She asked about transportation for those going to the behavioral health center.

“The people of Chester, how did they get to Delaware County?” she asked. “It’s not an easy transport.”

She asked how those completing rehabilitation would get home.

“We’re saving lives every day and they don’t see that,” she said of those who made the decision to close the hospital. “Because why? A poorer population that has fewer opportunities. It’s a very underserved community. We see it in the ER.”

Delaware County Memorial Hospital.
Delaware County Memorial Hospital.

Neopolitano spoke about how corporate decisions were felt locally.

“I’ve watched the decline over the last few years,” she said. “I’ve seen them snip and take the money to California and not invest in the hospital and then go back and blame us or the people because they don’t have the right insurance. Hospitals shouldn’t be out for profit. It amazes me that this company destroyed a hospital system and a community without batting an eyelid.”

She stressed the importance of staff.

“We still had people coming into our ER that we saved,” she said. “We saved lives. People will die under this decision. People owe their lives to Delaware County (Memorial Hospital), the nurses, the doctors and the staff, and they remember. This is a dark day for Drexel Hill (and) a very dark day for Upper Darby.”

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