Pa. high court blocks closing state health centers

Posted: July 20, 2013

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has issued a temporary injunction halting the closure of state health centers across Pennsylvania.

A union representing 160 nurses at most of the 60 health centers sued after learning that the Corbett administration was planning to eliminate 26 positions and close nearly half the centers that serve populations in rural areas of the state.

The union, SEIU Healthcare PA, along with several Democratic lawmakers, appealed a Commonwealth Court ruling in April denying their injunction request.

The state has already closed health centers in Carbon, Beaver, and Mifflin Counties, and 18 community health nurse positions have been eliminated, with nine community health nurses laid off and the remaining nurse positions moved into existing vacancies, according to SEIU.

The only clinic in the Southeast, located in Chester, remains open. City and county-run health centers in Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties are not affected.

The ruling would require the state to reopen health centers that provide testing for communicable diseases and other services and reinstate the nurse positions pending appeal, the union said in a statement.

Joe Donahue, who was laid off from this position as a Department of Health school nurse consultant in May, said the decision "marks an important step toward protecting public health and ensuring community access."

Aimee Tysarczk, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health, said that because there were no details in the order, the administration is awaiting guidance regarding its scope.

She added that the agency would continue to "defend our case."

The agency said it instituted the closures to try to revamp health access in rural areas by putting nurses on the road and delivering services through health fairs and other events rather than brick-and-mortar clinics.


Contact Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com or follow @inkyamy on Twitter.

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