Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From Caryn Hunt:

Stopping the Closure of Northeastern Hospital

Twelve Philadelphia hospitals have cut their obstetrics service in the last decade. In the midst of a deepening maternity care crisis, Northeastern Hospital in Port Richmond appears poised to join their ranks. Northeastern is operated by Temple University Health System (TUHS). After closing nearby Episcopal and Neuman hospitals, TUHS assured the community of its commitment Northeastern. Similarly, after closing the maternity unit at Jeanes in 2007, TUHS assured the community it would concentrate resources on Northeastern's maternity unit. TUHS predicted the births these hospitals previously handled would transfer over to Temple University Hospital. In fact, Temple's deliveries have decreased.

Northeastern Hospital now says it plans to "restructure", but those close to the hospital fear they plan to cut operations (OR) and Obstetrics (OB). The hospital claims to be losing money. But TUHS as a whole continues to operate at a substantial profit. Maternity services are usually cross-subsidized by other, more profitable service lines. And while it's true that Northeastern deals with a large volume of un- and under-insured patients, TUHS has received substantial subsidies, $120 million in the last five years above usual hospital subsidies, to counterbalance those expenses, much of it directed specifically to Northeastern. These public dollars should be invested wisely to strengthen existing services and improve quality at that hospital. The public doesn't know how much TUHS or Northeastern has negotiated from managed care for their reimbursements, but the state pays a global fee of $10,500 to cover prenatal services and delivery for each Medicaid birth. How much has Northeastern negotiated from the insurance companies to reimburse them for maternity services? Is it less than for our hearts or bones? Why haven't they negotiated to cover their costs?

1800 babies were born last year at Northeastern, many absorbed in the wake of maternity ward closures nearby. Where will this year's pregnant women go? The community around the hospital is expanding, with lots of young people starting families. The demand for maternity services will likely continue to increase.

Northeastern Hospital is a busy, full-service hospital with 168 beds nearly always in use- 120 patients was last year's average daily census. Nearby communities rely on Northeastern for a range of care, including emergency care. It provides the last maternity services to Northeast Philadelphia between Center City and Bucks County. 750 people are employed there and Northeastern also operates a nursing school. The hospital anchors retail business along the Allegheny/Aramingo corridor.

Northeastern Hospital says it is awaiting the recommendations of an internal Task Force before deciding on next steps. Employees and members of the community who rely upon Northeastern have asked to have representation on the Task Force. They have asked that the process be made transparent to the public. Senator Mike Stack and other elected representatives have stated their willingness to help Northeastern find solutions. We join with community members and Northeastern employees in demanding an open and thorough process that involves the public before deciding on service cuts.

Times are tough for everyone, but that's no reason for Temple University Health System to slough off its responsibility to the Northeast Philadelphia community that relies on Northeastern Hospital. The Coalition to Save Northeastern Hospital hopes that by raising the alarm now, by asking TUHS and Northeastern Hospital to involve the public in its deliberations, the Hospital and the vital services it provides to the community can be saved. We ask Temple University Health System to work with their employees, their communities, and elected officials to find a way to continue to operate Northeastern as a full-service hospital.

The Coalition to Save Northeastern Hospital is:
24th District Police Advisory Council
Bridesburg Civic Association
Fishtown Neighbors Association
Maternity Care Coalition
Philadelphia Chapter of National Organization for Women (NOW)Northeastern Hospital Nurses Association (NEHNA)
Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition
Philadelphia Nurse-Family Partnership
Port Richmond Community Group
Port Richmond on Patrol and CivicPort Richmond Town Watch
Temple University Hospital Nurses Association (TUHNA)

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