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What Happened? Community Health Systems (CHS) owns and operates Pottstown Memorial Medical Center (PMMC), Pottstown, PA, as it readies it for sale to Reading Hospital System. CHS has outdone itself in that PMMC has unachieved a poor One-Star rating from CMS Medicare Compare. In a final exhibition of good citizenship, CHS was reported to have:

“. . . suddenly closed its pediatric unit Friday due to financial reasons and low admissions, according to a news release from the union PASNAP, or the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals.” “We are concerned that [Community Health Systems] and Reading has made a decision to put profit over patients,” said Cindy Spacht, a registered nurse and 7-year employee of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. “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 will be packed up and shipped out to hospitals, some as far as 30 miles away.” Spacht said making individuals leave their community to receive care with only a two days’ notice is “heartless.”…/pottstown-memorial-medical-…/618067232

A lawsuit has been filed because: “Jessica Cosme, spokeswoman for PASNAP, said the hospital broke the law set forth in the National Labor Relations Act regarding collective bargaining. The union is currently in collective bargaining with the hospital, and the contracts of the nurses in the pediatric unit are part of that negotiation. The law requires the hospital to notify union nurses of an impending closure of any unit that is currently under negotiation, and the closure must be included in negotiation discussions before a final decision is made, Cosme said.”

“Opened in 2012, the pediatric unit admitted 150 patients last year. Pottstown Memorial sees about 600 pediatric patients each month. According to the hospital’s website, the mission of the 10-bed pediatric unit is to “increase the hospital’s ability to provide quality inpatient care and keep sick children close to home.”

What CHS Promises (NICHE notes that the CHS corporate website provides a list of its beliefs):

• “We have adopted the following Statement of Beliefs that summarizes the commitments of the organization’s constituents to our patients, colleagues, physicians, and the communities served.
• We are dedicated to providing personalized, caring, and efficient service to our patients with total satisfaction as our top priority.
• We recognize the value of each colleague in providing high quality, personalized care to our patients.
• We encourage colleague involvement in quality improvement to improve processes on an ongoing basis.
• We advocate participation in community activities.
• We are committed to involving physicians in partnership, both as consumers of service and as providers in ensuring quality care.
• We are devoted through services, quality, and innovation to provide continued healthcare leadership in the communities we serve.”

Why it Matters: Could this be entirely the fault of Reading Hospital System? How could CHS “abruptly close a pediatric unit” when, on their own hospital website they proclaim the importance of “keeping sick kids close to home?” Or, when “devoted through services . . .to provide continued healthcare leadership?”

While this may be, in part, an agreement made with Reading Hospital as a condition of purchase, it has been done with little concern for citizens of the city and is seemingly a matter of legal challenge. Can CHS be trusted to act differently in Fort Wayne with regard to Saint Joseph’s Hospital and its Burn Unit? Or its transplant program at Lutheran Hospital? WANE TV spokespersons reported that CHS had committed to continuing provision of burn unit services to this region despite its current loss of verification by the American Burn Association. But then again, a reading of CHS “Corporate Beliefs” when contrasted to reality, is worrisome.

Once again: Deeds not words.