Released: April 20, 2022
On April 20, 2022, Delaware County Council passed an emergency ordinance requiring hospitals and long-term care facilities to provide notice to the County and develop closing plans when closing hospitals, significant units of hospitals, or long-term care facilities.
In response to a series of permanent and temporary service closures and suspensions by Crozer Health, the emergency ordinance requires 180-day notice to the County of a decision to close either all or most of the units of a hospital or certain “significant impact units” such as emergency departments, ambulance services, labor and delivery units, or behavioral health departments. In addition, a closure plan is required to be submitted to the Delaware County Health Department no later than 120 days from the anticipated date of closure.
“We are in an emergency response situation. The consistent reduction of services and programs over the past few months from the largest hospital system in the County has left our community with a void of resources,” said Delaware County Council Chair Dr. Monica Taylor. “This ordinance allows our county and the stakeholders within our county time to prepare and find alternatives for vital services such as maternal care, drug and alcohol services, and advanced life support coverage to hopefully avoid any gaps in services.”
The ordinance specifies information to be included in a closure plan including plans for continuity of patient care, plans for diversion of emergency department patients to other departments, plans for dealing with medical records, and a formal communication and engagement plan with respect to the affected community. Failure to comply with either the notice obligation or the closure plan obligation would provide the basis for the County Solicitor to institute an action in court seeking either an injunction or the appointment of a special master to ensure compliance with the law.
The emergency ordinance specifies obligations to hospitals and long-term care facilities to provide Notice of Intent of plans to purchase, sell, or transfer ownership interest in a hospital or facility no less than 45-days prior to the anticipated transaction. The ordinance specifies information to be included in the Notice of Intent and the location of posting for such notices on the websites of acquiring entities and the Delaware County Health Department website.
“While the passage of an emergency ordinance is a drastic measure, it is both justified and necessary,” said Delaware County Vice Chair Elaine Schaefer. “We are in a true crisis that is centered in our most vulnerable communities. This ordinance allows time and planning for the transition for the thousands of Delco patients who would be directly and negatively affected by an abrupt termination of crucial services.”