KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Protesting the closure of hospitals across Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania. That’s what people did Thursday in Luzerne County in front of a fated mental health and psychiatric facility.
Access to healthcare has been impacted at five facilities in our region due to closures, mergers and furloughs. It’s inspired local groups to sound the alarm, calling for accountability and change.
Chants echoed from a crowd of protestors holding signs outside First Hospital on Wyoming Avenue in Kingston.
They’re rallying against Commonwealth Health which owns, operates and is closing the facility.
The for-profit company cited staffing shortages as the primary reason for the decision announced in August.
“This is a time for us to come together. We possess all the power we need to fight the powerholders who are currently in charge about making decisions about our healthcare,” said Jessica Boyles, the Co-Coordinator of the Northeast PA Healthcare Rights Committee
Boyles of the “Nonviolent Medicade Army” organized the public demonstration.
“We’re advocating for the workers, for the patients, for the community. When a psychiatric hospital closes down, people receiving services no longer have those services. First Hospital also runs multiple outpatient programs and all of those will be closed as well,” Boyles continued.
“Each pillowcase represents 10 hospital beds,” said one of the protestors.
Pillowcases were hung up representing the more than 300 hospital beds lost in the region due to closures.
Community members tell Eyewitness News the uncertainty of where patients and families will turn to for care is unsettling.
“It’s like taking an organ out of your body, could it function without a heart? Without a liver? You’re taking something that’s so embedded in our infrastructure, when you take that out, you’re literally jeopardizing the lifeline of the community,” Executive Director of the Harmony House Foundation, Shannon Groshek explained.
First Hospital has ended its inpatient and outpatient services and is expected to close on October 30. It’s currently the only private psychiatric facility in NEPA.