Sale of PA hospitals puts health system at heart of political debate

by jameswester on October 14, 2010

hospitalWhile they might not have sought the attention, like it or not a group of hospitals in Scranton, PA are finding themselves at the center of some pivotal debates about healthcare, politics and patient care.

Last week, Mercy Health Partners announced that it was looking to find a buyer for several of its hospitals and outpatient facilities in the Scranton region. The decision, according to President and CEO Kevin Cook, was based on the fact that Mercy Health Partners is unlikely to find the necessary resources to make upgrades and improvements. The announcement in itself was relatively non-controversial, until politics got involved and showed how even “simple” issues are being affected by the issue of healthcare reform.

Local political groups are now claiming the sale is a result of the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to one web site, aspects of the ACA, especially those related to funding abortions, are forcing the Catholic hospitals to seek a buyer.

The Catholic Health Association has released a statement saying those claims are untrue, and Cook, who is quoted on the web site saying the ACA was part of the reason for the decision, has issued an additional statement clarifying his remarks. Meanwhile, local labor organizations have weighed in on the matter, saying that the sale of the facilities to a for-profit company will interfere with the mission of providing quality patient care. Unions representing local healthcare employees have been at odds over labor practices with another for-profit company that recently purchased a separate regional healthcare system.

According to Cook, the sale of the facilities should take place before the end of the year.

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