Hospital Closures: Community Leaders Partner to Minimize Disruption of Healthcare Services

On January 31, 2022

With Tower Health’s closure of Jennersville Hospital on December 31, and the closure of Brandywine Hospital’s doors today, The Alliance for Health Equity (The Alliance), formerly the Brandywine Health Foundation, has announced the formation of the Health Services Leadership Group Task Force. The group, made up of leaders representing nearly 20 local and county organizations, will develop strategies to minimize disruption of healthcare services and rebuild a strong and equitable healthcare system in the region.

“We understand the tremendously negative impact the hospital closures will have on the communities that relied upon them,” said Vanessa Briggs, President & CEO of The Alliance for Health Equity. “Our goals in bringing together this group are to minimize the disruption of healthcare services, to provide information to the residents we serve about alternative healthcare services, and beyond that, to rebuild a strong and equitable healthcare ecosystem.”

“If ever there was a time to come together to galvanize action and build a strategic partnership with county and local government as well as many other community partners, the time is now, given the gravity of the situation and the abandonment of critical healthcare services,” Briggs added.

The task force is working in two groups – Advocacy and Coordinated Health Services – to prioritize and communicate short term healthcare needs, and to focus on longer-term methods to rebuild a stronger healthcare system – one that is not as vulnerable to the impact of hospital closures and that assesses and addresses gaps in healthcare and health-related services.

The Advocacy work group’s focus is on community needs and education, with priorities of conducting a community needs assessment to capture the concerns and healthcare needs of residents related to the hospital closures, while also identifying trusted community influencers to support community surveys and educational activities.

The Coordinated Health Services work group’s focus is on the identification of healthcare system gaps, ensuring residents are informed and educated on where to go to seek healthcare services, and rebuilding a strong equitable healthcare ecosystem.

“This group’s most pressing issue is how best to triage care while addressing long wait times due to increased patient volume in emergency rooms, an overtaxed emergency management system, and educating and connecting consumers to medical homes and providers due to the impact of hospital closures,” Briggs noted.

James Logan, Manager of the City of Coatesville, said, “We are happy to be part of The Alliance for Health Equity’s Health Services Leadership Group and participate in the Advocacy work group.

“Our administration and City Council have already expressed that access to health care in Coatesville and the region plays an important part in the health and well-being of our collective co-existence. Establishing a community network—where community voices are heard, without barriers – is our main objective.”

In addition to representation on The Alliance’s Health Services Leadership Group, the Chester County Commissioners and County departments have been taking action to support the healthcare needs of residents throughout the county.

Immediately after Tower Health’s announcement that both Jennersville and Brandywine Hospitals would close, staff in Chester County’s Department of Emergency Services coordinated communication and support for first responders, especially emergency medical services, including the Chester County EMS Council, Fire Chiefs Association, and Police Chiefs. Chester County’s Human Services staff have been ensuring that behavioral health services are maintained for those who need them, and County partners are addressing employment needs for those who worked at Jennersville and Brandywine Hospitals.

The County has also created a web page – www.chesco.org/hospitals – dedicated to providing residents with information, resources and answers to questions that arise due to the two hospital closures. This includes a map of all area hospital and urgent care locations, guidance on when to use urgent care services versus emergency hospital care, and the option to submit a question related to the hospital closures. The information on the web page continues to be updated.

“At times like these, our County department leaders and staff call upon their expertise and training to support the healthcare and hospital needs of our residents, keeping abreast of the challenges brought on by the closing of the two hospitals, and to help address and resolve them” said Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline.

“We thank The Alliance for Health Equity for bringing this task force together as part of the county’s overall response. We believe in its potential to become a model that communities throughout the rest of Chester County and the Commonwealth could call upon to address the short-term impacts of hospital closures and the long-term design of a healthcare system driven by community needs and equity.”