Aliquippa hospital shuts down abruptly
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Already in its death throes with a ban on patient admissions, Aliquippa's Commonwealth Medical Center closed yesterday, marking the end for a hospital that was once a source of community pride.
The hospital notified the state Health Department that it would close immediately, prompting the agency to revoke its operating license and demand that it cover all blue signs directing traffic to the facility.
"This is the first time, at least in the last 10 years, that we have had to revoke a license," health department spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said, adding that hospitals typically surrender their licenses after announcing intentions to close. "This is very unusual."
The closure comes a week after the 96-bed facility, formerly known as Aliquippa Community Hospital, filed for bankruptcy. The state last month forced the hospital to stop accepting new patients because it violated licensing standards and was short on essential supplies and equipment. The hospital did not meet the state's requirements to lift the ban by Dec. 1, Ms. Kriedeman said yesterday.
The skilled nursing facility, which operates under a separate license, will stay open until three residents there are discharged or relocated. It was unknown last night how many people were employed at the hospital, which said it was working with various agencies and employers to find placement for some of those affected.
"We want to express our heartfelt thanks to all steelworkers and the families of the steelworkers who unselfishly donated money to the hospital, the dedicated employees, physicians, volunteers and community members we have been privileged to serve these past 51 years," said John O'Donnell, chief executive officer and interim president.
The hospital was a nonprofit institution built with contributions from area steelworkers until Commonwealth Medical Center bought it for $23 million a year ago. The facility had lost more than $12 million since a 2004 Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, which prompted the takeover.
The hospital's history was just as rife with problematic inspections and financial struggles as it was with local significance.
But some citizens who previously rallied to save the ailing hospital when it teetered on the brink of shutdown said last month that they had grown weary of the fight. Still, they lamented the closing of the half-century-old facility.
"It's devastating to the city," Aliquippa Mayor Anthony Battalini said.
Ms. Kriedeman said Commonwealth Medical Center can reapply for a license, but it would be starting from scratch.
"I'm still confident that somebody's going to come in there and take that hospital over," Mr. Battalini said. "We need that hospital."
First Published December 13, 2008 12:00 am