The group drew a large audience to discuss the growing healthcare staffing crisis, the state of healthcare delivery and transformation, and steps to improve staffing and delivery
Taylor, Pa — Amid mounting concern over hospital care in the region, healthcare workers and advocates from across the region gathered together on Thursday to discuss the growing healthcare delivery crisis in Northeast PA.
“Our round table discussion on health care issues facing NEPA revealed fears people face on the future delivery of health care needs,” said panelist State Rep. Bridget Malloy Koswierski, RN. “We listened to both consumers and providers. We must have a plan in place for our aging population here in Pennsylvania to ensure we have adequate staffing, safe environment and quality health care available and affordable.”
“We are committed to continue this discussion and come up with pragmatic solutions, continued Koswierski. “My thanks to the panel and the SEIU for providing the opportunity for the discussion.”
Bringing this group together was significant. Hospitals are key community assets in NEPA that play a large role in our region’s health and economy. Northeast PA is home to 15 acute care hospitals worth $2.5 billion, where 11,000 caregivers treat 100,000 people each year. Together, these hospitals own assets worth more than $2.5 billion and employ 11,000 people.
Joining State Rep. Kosierowski to weigh in on this growing care crisis were SEIU Healthcare PA members Jesi Swoboda, RN, and Tami Pease, RN; Teresa Osborne, State Civil Service Commission; Nancy Brown, West Side Active Older Adult Community Center; Marlee Lemoncelli Stefanelli, Action Together Healthcare Committee Person; and Susan Coble, State Deputy Secretary Quality Assurance. The group discussed the ways that providers can collaborate with healthcare advocates to improve patient care outcomes and the ways the broader NEPA community can collaborate on dynamic solutions to improve care in the region.
NEPA’s hospitals take in billions in Medicare, Medicaid, and Veteran’s Administration dollars, as well as costly commercial insurance. Many of these hospitals were built with workers’ and churches’ charitable contributions.
But many at the meeting expressed that, in recent years, they feel healthcare has become more of a big business and less of a caring mission.
“Some of our hospitals are owned by big for-profit chains,” said Jesi Swoboda, RN, from Peckville. “What does that mean for patients? I think they’re answering to shareholders in New York, not patients in Scranton.”
Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Wayne counties are all suffering from a lower than state averages level of primary care physicians, dentists, and mental care professionals. The same counties all suffer from higher than national and state average rates of death as a result of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease are all contributing to this healthcare crisis in North East PA.
High hospital owner turnover and infrastructure issues, such as a lack of investment in medical equipment and insufficient training of workers, were both identified as key roots to this continuing regional healthcare crisis.
“When equipment is outdated it’s not as efficient as newer equipment would be, so it slows down the time it takes to do tests and x-rays,” said Swoboda, speaking to the importance of these investments in hospital infrastructure.
Potential solutions to these core issues discussed at Thursday night’s round table include asking hospital executives to pledge to not sell facilities to companies with a record of denying access to people with the “wrong” insurance unless there is a binding promise to maintain access for all. There must be a clear commitment to investing in and upgrading hospital equipment and staff training alike in order to improve the quality of care in NEPA.
The panel also discussed working with local officials, the healthcare workers’ unions, consumer advocacy organizations, and each other to improve our community’s health status by promoting quality primary and preventative care and by seeking to eliminate health disparities.
NEPA is resilient and we know our hospitals can thrive, grow, and succeed to provide exceptional care, good jobs, and healthy communities. That’s why we are calling upon hospital executives, elected leaders and ourselves work together to make sure that every patient has access to affordable, high-quality care, and that every caregiver has a rewarding, family-sustaining job.
This initial conversation is part of a broader movement to address the patient care and staffing crisis across Pennsylvania, a movement advocating for deliberate, dedicated change across the region.