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)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Transparency Urged for Northeastern

by NOW member Caryn Hunt
cross posted from

Community leaders met January 6th in a Port Richmond recreation center to discuss Temple University Health System (TUHS) plans for Northeastern Hospital amid rumors it will cut services. Staff within the system have been told that Northeastern is “restructuring”. Employees at Temple University Hospital have been told Temple will expand its obstetrics department (OB) once it closes at Northeastern. Northeastern officials contacted by members of the community have denied plans to close the facility, saying they are looking to "tighten their belt". What that may mean in terms of specific service cuts awaits the recommendations of an internal Task Force studying the restructuring of Northeastern within the Temple system, says Northeastern, but those close to the hospital fear maternity services will go. What so irks community members is that Northeastern's process is closed to the public and there are no community representatives included on the Task Force. “I think we need to meet with the Task Force face to face because this effects the whole community," said Cheryl, a longtime Port Richmond community member, "I was born in that hospital, I'm 61 years old. My daughter was born in that hospital. My grandfather suffered a heart attack and they saved him in that hospital. My mother just came out of there three weeks ago. This hospital has been around as long as I have.” Others attending expressed the same sentiments. Dr. Albert Pizzica, Director of Newborn Nurseries and Chief of Pediatrics at Northeastern, said, “Any restructuring at Northeastern that doesn't include OB is just unacceptable.” After acquiring Newman, Episcopal and Northeastern hospitals nearly ten years ago, the system promised to keep Northeastern open after closing the other two. Temple University Hospital enlisted community help four years ago in their effort to obtain property adjacent to their facility where a Walmart was planned. Patty-Pat Kozlowski of Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic said, “There are about 5 or 6 Port Richmond organizations here and we feel kind of boondoggled about what Temple and Northeastern's doing because we were their Davids when they couldn't fight the Walmart thing. We were the ones on the front line, we put our necks out there and won it for them”. Community members say Temple University Hospital assured them they would use the property to expand hospital facilities, to build a new maternity ward or nursing school. In fact, the location is currently a parking lot. “Now we make a call to say hey can you put someone from the same community group that saved you five years ago on the Task Force, we're not getting any calls back, they're not even telling us who's on the Task Force,” Kozlowski said.

“Does anyone here believe that left to themselves, Temple will make the right decision?,” asked Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Professionals (PASNAP) representative Stacy Harris. “I think that part of their goal in saying we have this Task Force, we haven't made any decisions yet, is everybody will sit back and say OK, well maybe they'll do the right thing, we don't have to be prepared. Then, all of a sudden, like at Newman or Jeanes, maternity is already gone and we're fighting from the outside. We have to fight this from the inside now because it's the best chance we have of saving maternity and other services at Northeastern.” PASNAP estimates up to 700 jobs could be lost if Temple decides to transform Northeastern into a “portal of care”, an outpatient facility with an emergency room.“Keeping the pressure on now is very important,” said Pizzica, “Temple receives a lot of public money. The public in this area should be part of the process of any organization that receives so much public money. To me, that's the reason we should demand and get public representation on the Task Force.” The Temple system has received over $120 million in public funds in the last five years, due to the large number of under and un-insured patients they routinely deal with in their service area.According to 2006 Department of Health statistics, Dr. Pizzica pointed out, 1800 babies are delivered in the area per year. “Temple cannot absorb 1800. Temple cannot absorb 500, probably. And we know that the other places that are contiguous cannot take many more if any at all. So if we go down the line that OB will be closed, the community has to demand a written plan from Temple, what's going to happen to these 1800 or more pregnant women?”, said Pizzica, “This is a bit negative because the presumption here is OB is going to close, but if it comes to that and it's irreversible, I think we still need to look at this as a community, where are these people going to go? Where is the ten week premature labor patient that comes in every day... they're not going to reach Temple, they're not going to reach Einstein. They're going to deliver in the streets, they're going to deliver in a cab, they're going to deliver in the emergency room at Northeastern. And we know a baby born outside of a delivery room, in an emergency room, and needs transport, does ten times worse than a baby born in a delivering center. So this is a public health problem if we go down the negative route.” Pizzica pointed out that when Temple closed Episcopal Hospital, they believed Episcopal deliveries would transfer to Temple University, but Temple's deliveries have declined. If Northeastern should discontinue its OB department, that would mean the loss of the last maternity department to serve the population between Center City and Bucks County. A staggering 17 hospitals have closed their maternity departments in the greater Philadelphia region over the past 11 years. Northeast Philadelphia communities are banding together to form a Coalition to Save Northeastern Hospital. Their first demand is for an open, transparent process as Northeastern evaluates need versus cost. They plan another meeting for January 20th at the Samuel Recreation Center, Tioga and Gaul Sts., 2501 E. Tioga.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

by Louise Francis

On January 6 two busloads of people left the West Philadelphia office of Pennsylvania State Representative Vanessa Brown. Vanessa is a first time state rep who was endorsed by the Philadelphia NOW Political Action Committee. The group was headed to Harrisburg to share and celebrate her swearing-in day with her. Included in the group was a class of children from the Darrell elementary school. Also two members of our NOW chapter, Louise Francis and Dorris Pridgen were on the busses. The fact that there were two busloads (and additional people driving to Harrisburg) was a testament to the enthusiasm and level of support for Vanessa’s candidacy and election victory. Philadelphia NOW was among Vanessa’s first and most enthusiastic supporters and we wanted to share this celebration with her. We have very high expectations for this new state representative and her ability enable real change in her district and the state.

The trip to the state capitol was approximately two hours, including a short stop near Harrisburg. While on the way there a raffle was held. Everyone on the bus was given a ticket and the tickets were placed into a bag. Four prizes were awarded based on random drawings from the tickets. Louise was asked to make one of the selections, and drew her own ticket. The prize was two beautiful ceramic and glass candleholders.

Once we arrived in Harrisburg, we were directed to a relative large conference room, where refreshments were provided. After we were settled in our chairs, Vanessa gave a speech to the group, recounting the struggles that led to become an activist and then a candidate for political office. As a single parent in a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, she was urged to obtain welfare. Because of the difficulties of her experience with the welfare system, Vanessa was led to testify at a Congressional hearing on how the welfare system abuses the people it is supposed to be helping. This then led her to become a community activist involved in a number of initiatives, including lobbying congress in DC to extend unemployment benefits. This led to her becoming a committeeperson, the entry level into politics in the city and then to her candidacy for State Rep.

Before her speech could be completed, Vanessa was called to go the floor of the House for the swearing-in ceremony. Her supporters were left in the conference room to watch events on what was supposed to be a “large-screen” TV. The “large screen” turned out to be about the size of the television many people have in their living rooms and was completely inadequate to the number of supporters in attendance and the size of the room. To make matters worse, the audio portion of the technology was not nearly loud enough. Part of the way through the ceremony, the audio sound from a nearby room showing the swearing-in ceremony of the Pennsylvania Senate could be heard, and the sound drowned out the House if Representatives swearing-in. When people from our group complained, they were told that nothing could be done. As a person who has attended many meetings and conferences, I have never experienced such incompetence in the provision of audio-visual technical services.

After we had lunch on our own in the Capitol’s cafeteria, we regrouped to attend the swearing-in of the Pennsylvania Legislature Black Caucus. Again we experienced snafus. The representatives in the House were detained after the swearing–in to debate some proposed legislation, the contents of which we could not understand, but it had something to do with committee composition, now that Democrats had the clear majority in the House. The debate dragged on and the Black Caucus swearing in was delayed over two hours, while Vanessa’s supporters, including the school children, were left watching the boring and incomprehensible debate on a screen.

The Black Caucus swearing-in finally took place and we were all please to witness Vanessa sworn in as the treasurer of the group.

Finally, several hours late, we piled back into the buses and headed back to Philadelphia. Fortunately, the terrible winter storm that had been predicted did not materialize, and the trip back was uneventful, although it had been a long day for many of us and we were tired. Once back in Philadelphia, I learned from Vanessa that she was told that the contingent from Philadelphia had been a problem – they had been noisy and had complained about the inadequate AV equipment in their conference room (Vanessa was told that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the equipment. Presumably the problems were all a figment of our imaginations.)

I have neglected to mention up to this point that the overwhelming majority of people making the trip to Harrisburg for Vanessa’s swearing-in were black and from Philadelphia. I cannot help but suspect that there were people in Harrisburg with an attitude problem, and they were not Vanessa’s supporters.

Friday, January 02, 2009


From Dee Johnson, NOW member and Program Director, Pennsylvania Prison Society:


Members of Philadelphia NOW and the Working Group to Enhance Services to Incarcerated Women—a consortium of nearly 30 organizations working to improve the conditions of women in prison, will meet with Charles Duncan, legislative director for Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Pa.) to discuss comprehensive legislation to ban the practice of shackling pregnant prisoners in Pennsylvania.

Currently, the Commonwealth allows pregnant prisoners to be shackled during transport to the hospital, and while in labor, delivery and recovery.
The new measure will mandate that when a “female prisoner is brought to a hospital from any Department of Corrections facility or county jail for the purpose of delivering her baby, no restraints of any kind shall be used during transport, except that where the officer in charge of the institution has determined and documented that such woman presents a substantial flight risk, such woman may be handcuffed. Under no circumstances shall restraints of any kind be used on any pregnant woman while she is in the hospital awaiting birth, during labor or in recovery after giving birth.”

The bill was drafted by Kathleen Creamer, Esq., a Working Group member and staff attorney for Community Legal Services.

The City of Philadelphia currently bans the use of restraints on pregnant women in the Philadelphia Prison System during labor and delivery. Only three states—Illinois, California and Vermont—currently have laws that prohibit this practice.