Pe­di­atrics unit at PMMC closes

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Donna Rovins drovins@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mer­cBiz on Twitter

Pottstown Me­mo­rial Med­i­cal Cen­ter is tem­po­rar­ily clos­ing its in­pa­tient pe­di­atric unit at the hospi­tal due to low ad­mis­sions.

The de­ci­sion comes as the sale of the hospi­tal to Read­ing Health Sys­tem con­tin­ues to move for­ward.

The unan­nounced clo­sure has prompted a re­sponse from the nurses’ union at PMMC, urg­ing the hospi­tal to re­con­sider the clo­sure.

Ac­cord­ing to a memo sent Sept. 6 from PMMC CEO Rich Newell to the hospi­tal’s board of trus­tees, a copy of which has been ob­tained by The Mer­cury, the unit will close to pe­di­atric in­pa­tient ad­mis­sions ef­fec­tive Fri­day, Sept. 8.

“This de­ci­sion is based on ex­tremely low ad­mis­sion vol­ume over the course of the past 12 months,” Newell stated in the memo.

Deb Ben­nis, PMMC di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, con­firmed the ac­tion, but could pro­vide no ad­di­tional com­ment Sept. 7.

Cindy Spacht, RN, and a PMMC em­ployee for seven years, said in a state­ment from the Pennsylvania As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als (PASNAP), which repre-

sents the hospi­tal’s nurses, that she is con­cerned the hospi­tal “has made a de­ci­sion to put profit over pa­tients.”

“The PEDS unit is vi­tal for the health of the chil­dren of Pottstown. Now, in­stead of get­ting qual­ity care right here in our com­mu­nity, sick chil­dren we be packed up and shipped out to hos­pi­tals, some as far as 30 miles away,” she said in the state­ment.

In Septem­ber 2016, a ma­jor­ity of the nurses at PMMC voted to join the Pennsylvania As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, an af­fil­i­ate of the North­east Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion, a coali­tion of or­ga­niz­ing unions rep­re­sent­ing nurses in Mas­sachusetts, New York and PASNAP in Pennsylvania.

Bill Cruice, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Pennsylvania As­so­ci­a­tion of Staff Nurses and Al­lied Pro­fes­sion­als, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion is dis­ap­pointed in “this hasty and thought­less ac­tion by the hospi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

“The well­be­ing of sick and in­jured chil­dren should be much more of a pri­or­ity than they ap­par­ently are,” Cruice said. “We strongly urge both the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion and the in­com­ing Read­ing Hospi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tion, to re­con­sider this ill-timed and risky de­ci­sion.”

Prior to the pe­di­atric unit’s open­ing in 2012, PMMC ad­mit­ted 20 to 30 pe­di­atric pa­tients a year, with oth­ers re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at hos­pi­tals around the re­gion.

Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics pro­vided by the hospi­tal to Dig­i­tal First Me­dia in 2016, the Emer­gency De­part­ment saw 600 pe­di­atric pa­tients a month, with about 150 pe­di­atric pa­tients ad­mit­ted to PMMC’s 10-bed pe­di­atric unit an­nu­ally.

“Pe­di­atric pa­tients will con­tinue to be seen and cared for in our Emer­gency De­part­ment in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the pe­di­a­tri­cians from Ne­mours-Dupont and if ad­mis­sion is re­quired, our pa­tients will be ap­pro­pri­ately trans­ferred to an ac­cept­ing pe­di­atric fa­cil­ity. Out­pa­tient pe­di­atric surg­eries will con­tinue to be per­formed in our main Op­er­at­ing Room as we cur­rently do to­day.” Newell’s memo con­tin­ued.

In July 2016, PMMC and Ne­mours Chil­dren’s Health Sys­tem be­gan a part­ner­ship to pro­vide ad­vanced pe­di­atric care. Un­der the col­lab­o­ra­tion, pe­di­atric hos­pi­tal­ists trained and em­ployed by Ne­mours be­gan work­ing with PMMC staff on the in­pa­tient pe­di­atrics floor, pro­vid­ing con­sul­ta­tion in the Emer­gency De­part­ment and at­tend­ing high risk de­liv­er­ies.

Read­ing Health Sys­tem, the owner of Read­ing Hospi­tal, an­nounced in May that it planned to buy PMMC, Phoenixville Hospi­tal, Brandy­wine Hospi­tal in Caln Town­ship, Chest­nut Hill Hospi­tal in Philadel­phia and Jen­nersville Re­gional Hospi­tal in Penn Town­ship in south­ern Ch­ester County from cur­rent owner Com­mu­nity Health Sys­tems Inc. of Franklin, Tenn.

The West Read­ing-based Read­ing Health Sys­tem plans to change its name to Tower Health to re­flect its new re­gional struc­ture.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

The union rep­re­sent­ing nurses at PMMC is urg­ing the hospi­tal to re­con­sider its de­ci­sion to close the pe­di­atric in­pa­tient unit at the hospi­tal. In this file photo, PMMC nurses par­tic­i­pated in a rally in July de­signed to spark a di­a­log with Read­ing Health Sys­tem, which plans to pur­chase PMMC and four other area hos­pi­tals.

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