State plan to close Pa. health centers debated

(Sentinel) Attorneys for the state and a union representing public health nurses are arguing in court over whether the commonwealth has the authority to close nearly half of its state public health centers without the approval of the Legislature.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ( ) says the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania contends that the 1996 state law forbids closure of such centers without lawmakers’ assent.

State lawyers, however, say the law in question applied to a previous effort to privatize the centers.

The Department of Health has said the consolidations would allow nurses to be more mobile and treat public health problems in the community.

Opponents say the plan, which would furlough dozens of public health workers, would diminish the state’s capacity to respond to public health threats.