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Attorney Bruce M. Ludwig Makes Case to PA Supreme Court to Halt Closure of State Health Centers

March 17, 2014

Willig, Williams & Davidson partner Bruce M. Ludwig recently presented oral arguments to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a continued effort to halt the Corbett Administration’s plans to close State Health Centers and furlough  a number of community health nurses.

The suit was filed on behalf of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and several state senators and representatives in Commonwealth Court in April 2013. It challenges Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to close 26 of the state’s 60 public health centers and eliminate the jobs of the 26 community health nurses who staff or support them.

In arguments to the state Supreme Court on March 12, Ludwig told the justices they had the authority to overturn a Commonwealth Court ruling and issue a preliminary injunction to prevent the Department of Health from closing the centers. A state law passed nearly 20 years ago prohibits their closure, Ludwig said, arguing that only the state legislature could authorize such a move.

Enacted in 1996 and signed by Gov. Tom Ridge, Act 87 requires the Department of Health to “operate those public State health centers and provide at a minimum those public health services in effect as of July 1, 1995,” Ludwig argued. In 1995, there were 60 State Health Centers in 59 counties in Pennsylvania. They provide essential public health services, such as immunizations, disease testing,  and  health education to the residents of those counties.

Of the 26 centers slated for closure, 14 already have been shuttered.

“We’re asking the Supreme Court to issue this injunction to force the state to restore these health centers that were closed and prevent the closure of the remaining 12,” Ludwig said. “Now, we just have to wait for the court’s decision.”

If the Corbett Administration’s plan is allowed to proceed, it will eliminate an estimated 73 jobs at the Department of Health, including those of the 26 community health nurses who are “first responders” for public health emergencies.

The case is SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania et al. v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al. Supporting the case are State Senators Tim Solobay (D-46) and John Wozniak (D-35) and State Representatives Michael Hanna (D-76), Ted Harhai (D-58) and Pam Snyder (D-50).


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