WGFC Had Plans for Hospital Closing - Updated: Hospital to Remain Open
 
November 19, 2021
 

******Updated November 23 ******

This story has now been updated to reflect the announcement on Monday that Canyon Atlantic Partners has acquired the Jennersville and Brandywine Hospitals effective January 1, 2022. With this announcement, the largest concerns of the southern Chester County community -- the loss of a 24 X 7 emergency department and related services -- have been eased. The leadership of the West Grove Fire Company congratulates officials at the township, county and state level for their non-stop efforts to work to help find a solution to the significant concerns about the potential impacts of the hospital closing. We applaud this transaction, and look forward to working closely with the new hospital ownership group to help make the "new" hospital in Penn Township successful.

Working closely with our partners in EMS and the greater emergency services community of southern Chester County, the WGFC was able to undertake a fast and proactive planning process designed to ready the fire company to handle the impact on ambulance services of the hospital's closing - in particular, the significant extended hospital transport times to Chester County Hospital and Christiana Hospital for patients who might have gone previously to Jennersville. We are particularly grateful to local and state elected officials who expressed their support and commitment to the WGFC during this process throughout numerous formal briefing sessions, weekly phone calls, and numerous one-on-one interactions.

While we can all celebrate the Canyon Atlantic Partners announcement, the reality is that the current Jennersville Hospital has been undergoing a slow shut down process for the last weeks, with the intensive care unit closed, in-patient admissions down to near zero, and services and staffing reduced. As a result, even though Jennersville remained open -- and the emergency department has been working uninterrupted and still is today -- many patients transported by ambulance had already been bypassing Jennersville, and the impact of that reduction in services continues today. These impacts will continue until the hospital begins operating under Canyon Atlantic Partners and until that company restores the hospital's services to normal levels. As such, the WGFC continues to operate its ambulances as part of the proactive plan set up in anticipation of the hospital's potential closing, working with our partners to assure a steady and reliable ambulance response in southern Chester County. It is assumed that these conditions will take some time to resolve.

That said, we applaud Monday's announcement, which outlines a plan for the hospital to avoid a complete shutdown, and ambitions for a brighter future for the hospital in Penn Township.

The statement from Penn Township on Monday's announcement can be found here: https://www.penntownship.us/home/news/statement-regarding-tower-health-jennersville-hospital-sale-canyon-atlantic-partners-llc
Press release from Tower Health: https://towerhealth.org/articles/tower-health-secures-new-ownership-brandywine-and-jennersville-hospitals-facilities-remain
Statement from State Rep. John Lawrence: http://www.replawrence.com/News/22892/Press-Releases/Local-Officials-Announce-Jennersville-Hospital-to-Remain-Open


Background on Hospital Closing can be Found Below, the content below describes the WGFC proactive planning for the potential closing of Jennersville Hospital:

On September 28, Tower Health announced its intent to close the Jennersville Regional Hospital (JRH) effective January 1. This announcement has raised considerable concerns in the community about access to a local emergency room, surgical unit, intensive care, and inpatient health care.

As the fire company began outreach to the community and local municipal officials, it was clear that there were many questions about the potential impacts of the hospital closing on the fire company and community – and more concerning, hearing initially from some officials and residents that they (mistakenly) believed the hospital closing might not impact the WGFC at all.

That is why the leadership of the fire company has been proactively meeting with state, county and local municipal officials to provide information about the impact to southern Chester County’s emergency medical system (EMS), so that those officials are armed with the right information on the significant impact on the operations and finances of local EMS services of the hospital’s closure.

The WGFC has proactively developed and distributed an emergency operations response plan to the municipalities, outlining how the fire company will adjust operations as a result of the significant impact the hospital closing will have on the organization. The leadership of the fire company has held two formal briefing sessions with area municipal, county and state officials, and held countless meetings to help educate elected officials about the impacts of the hospital closure not only to the WGFC but to the entire southern Chester County emergency response system. The WGFC has also updated its annual funding requests with municipal officials, to help offset anticipated financial impacts as well.

The response and support from area elected officials has so far been very strong. Not only were the elected officials appreciative of the WGFC’s proactive planning and impact modeling, state officials have indicated they may ask WGFC representatives to testify in Harrisburg on the impact of the hospital closing in the weeks ahead.

What Are the Impacts to the WGFC and Emergency System of the Hospital Closing?

The WGFC anticipates significant impacts to departmental operations, as well as financial concerns, as a result of the closing of JRH. In particular are the following factors:

• Extended transport times to more distant hospitals (primarily Chester County Hospital in West Chester and Christiana Hospital in Delaware) will leave ambulances out of the district for extended times, thus not available quickly for the next emergency;
• Significant wear and tear on ambulances due to the significant increase in traveled miles;
• EMS crew safety from extended patient contact with patients who may be violent or unstable;
• Inclement winter weather will further complicate and lengthen transport times to distant hospitals;
• Real concerns exist about staff and volunteer fatigue and burnout;
• Increases in 911 call volumes are likely, as patients may now call us rather than drive to the local ER; and
• Ambulance check-in times at the emergency departments at Chester County Hospital and Christiana Hospital are already increasing as other hospitals absorb the patient volumes from Jennersville.

Now here are some of the details on each of these issues:

There will be significant ambulance turnaround times for emergency calls that no longer go to JRH. Based on call data, it is anticipated that just over 1,600 patients will be transported by ambulance by the WGFC in 2021. Those patients will now have to be transported to other hospitals – like CCH in West Chester, or the Christiana Hospital in Delaware. For patients who now go to JRH, the ambulance (on average) takes about eight (8) minutes to transport from the emergency scene to Jennersville, and then takes another 13 minutes to turnaround – meaning the time from arrival in the ER to the time the ambulance is available for the next call. That’s approximately 21 minutes. Now consider the same emergency call going to CCH in West Chester – the combined transport and turnaround times extend from 21 minutes at JRH to more than 2+ hours for Chester County Hospital. During those extended transport times – WGFC’s ambulances are out of the district and not available for other emergencies. And given the historical call volume in our area, it is often the case that the WGFC is handling multiple calls at the same time – when both of our ambulances are on the way to CCH or Christiana – our ambulances are not in the community ready to quickly respond to 911 calls until they return, nearly two hours later.

Additionally, these ERs are much further away from West Grove. An ambulance call to JRH is often completed in about 8 miles to the hospital for a round trip. A round trip to CCH is 50 miles, and 34 miles for Christiana Hospital. That means extraordinarily more fuel and mileage on our ambulances – that translates to a higher cost for fuel AND significant impact on the WGFC’s apparatus replacement plan which calls for replacing ambulances every eight years. A fourth ambulance will definitely be needed to maintain an adequate fleet to deliver reliable emergency services (ambulances cost $250,000.00 each).

There are other concerns raised by the closing of JRH:

• The safety of EMS crews is a concern, as we are often called to provide treatment and transport to patients experiencing behavioral emergencies or patients under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Some of these patients display violent tendencies or unstable behavior. This presents a risk to our EMS crews on extended transports.

• With extended transports anticipated, now factor in inclement weather. Winter ice and snow storms, flooding rains, etc. – all of those factors will extend ambulance turnaround times from 1-1/2 hours to as much as four hours – this further keeps ambulances out of district and not available for the next emergency.

• There is a real impact on staff, as crews may spend nearly all of their shifts on transports. This provides little time for crews to complete charting and paperwork, and get a break from calls, especially given our call volume. And the JRH closing will have a similar impact on our neighboring services in Oxford and Avondale – meaning the need for mutual aid calls to cover them will impact WGFC and vice versa their covering in West Grove. This has a real potential to lead to provider fatigue and burnout. This has now led to the WGFC seeking additional funding from the municipalities to increase staffing, and increase pay to provide incentives to retain and recruit staff into this challenging environment.

• ER check-in times at hospitals are likely to increase. As patients from JRH shift to visits to CCH and Christiana, those already-busy emergency departments will certainly experience busier volumes. While these times fluctuate widely based a variety of factors, we have had crews recently experience more than a two-hour wait to transfer an ambulance patient to the ER staff at one local hospital – those extended waits for an available ER bed dramatically increase our time “out of district” and further complicate anticipated challenges to EMS in southern Chester County due to the JRH shutdown.

• There are also anticipated increases in ambulance calls due to the hospital closing for two additional reasons: First, and until recently, some people may have driven a patient to the JRH ER because the hospital is right in the community. Faced with a long drive to West Chester or Delaware, some of those families will now call 911 for an ambulance. And, secondly, because people are used to JRH being there, they may go to the hospital expecting it to be open, and then dial 911 when they learn the hospital is now closed. Both factors will drive up 911 call volume for West Grove, adding to an already complicated situation.

These factors and others have us concerned about how Tower Health’s decision to close Jennersville Hospital is having very real impacts to the operations of the WGFCs ambulance service, and the potential for considerable financial impact to our budget over the long term. We have been proactively meeting with area EMS services and County emergency officials to adopt plans for mutual aid and call coverage, working in particular very closely with the Union Fire Company of Oxford. These coordinated efforts have led to the development of mutual aid protocols as services experience extended travel times, and the system must adapt to a lack of readily available resources.

Even though Jennersville isn’t scheduled to close until December 31, the intensive care unit is closed already, key services have been scaled back, and the hospital is actively discouraging ambulances from transporting to Jennersville any patients who may need to be admitted or need advanced care. And the impacts to our system are already being felt – with crews transporting to Chester County Hospital and facing arrival delays due to an influx of new patients. We encourage area residents to raise appropriate concerns with elected officials and stay informed as this situation continues to develop.

While we’d like to hope that a hospital rescue plan might be successful, our new reality is here today – the availability and benefits of a local hospital in Penn Township are already slipping away, so the WGFC is operating and planning as if the Jennersville Hospital has already closed. We remain committed to a high standard of emergency ambulance response and care for our community. The WGFC is appreciative of the support of our community and elected officials, and commits to continue to communicate on the impact of the JRH closing in the weeks ahead. Should you have questions, contact your local elected officials, or send an email to info@WGFC.org.

 

Richard Dodson November 20, 2021 at 8:18 AM
There is another factor that will impact WGFC and be compounded by the closing of Jennersville Hospital. With the development and population growth of our area (particularly 55+ communities), demand for emergency services will increase, placing an even higher burden on WGFC.


Sandra White November 20, 2021 at 4:35 PM
People will die! Heart Attacks --- Bleeding out from things - Aller. reactions to things - these are only a couple of examples when a amblance will be still in route back from a long drive to another hospital -all the nursing places around area - -if cash problems CEO s scale your pay back for one issue -Each Fire Co. will have to buy more amblances and get more people to cover shifts -Community is outraged that you all want to play with real peoples lives !


David Young November 20, 2021 at 8:01 PM
I am just making this point that some of the staff are to blame.