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Hospital Closures are on the Rise in Pennsylvania; Harrisburg Must Step In

June 16, 2023

Hospital closures are impacting communities across Pennsylvania. Closures can harm communities by reducing the number of hospital beds, emergency services, labor and delivery services, diagnostic testing and imaging services, and laboratory services available within a reasonable distance. They can lead to patients losing the doctors and healthcare providers they trust most with their care when a hospital closes. And they can mean that patients who need lifesaving care can no longer get it in time

Why Do Hospital Closures Happen?

While there are many factors and unique situations that lead to a full or partial closure of a hospital, more than 90% of closures are preceded by a merger, acquisition, or change in ownership. PHAN reviewed all full or partial hospital closures in Pennsylvania over the past 20 years. Thirty of the 33 hospital closures we looked at in the past 20 years, and 14 of 15 closures in the past 5 years have been preceded by a merger, acquisition, or change in ownership of the hospital.

Hospital Closures are On the Rise

The pace of hospital closures is increasing with nearly half of the closures in the past 20 years happening in just the last 5 years. Of particular concern is the time between a merger, acquisition, or change in ownership and a closure has decreased by nearly half: from 7.6 years when you look at the past two decades, to just 4.1 years over the past five years.

What can Pennsylvania do to slow Hospital Closures?

When hospitals experience a merger, are purchased, or have a change in ownership, it is the most likely indicator that the hospital will experience a full or partial closure. This means that mergers, acquisitions, and changes in ownership signal a critical time for officials to step in and ensure that communities don’t lose access to lifesaving services.

Many promises are made during these mergers, acquisitions, or changes in ownership and sadly communities often realize too late that those promises are broken as soon as the cameras are off and the attention fades. Getting those promises on the record and bringing transparency and accountability to a process that is currently opaque should be a top priority of state lawmakers.

Click here to see the full data on hospital closures in Pennsylvania