Pediatrics unit at PMMC closing, low admissions numbers cited

A view of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. The hospital has decided to close its inpatient pediatric unit on Friday  because of low admission numbers.
A view of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. The hospital has decided to close its inpatient pediatric unit on Friday because of low admission numbers. Digital First Media File Photo
RN Cindy Spacht take a computer on wheels into a patient’s room during a 2014 tour of the PMMC Pediatric Unit. The hospital has made the decision to close the inpatient pediatric unit, citing low admission numbers
RN Cindy Spacht take a computer on wheels into a patient’s room during a 2014 tour of the PMMC Pediatric Unit. The hospital has made the decision to close the inpatient pediatric unit, citing low admission numbers Digital First Media File Photo

Pottstown >> 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 Wednesday 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.

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“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 Thursday afternoon.

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 represents 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.

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