Tammy Rojas

Tammy Rojas of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee speaks to Lancaster City Council about UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster hospital's upcoming closure on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. 

Local advocates seeking to prevent the closure of UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster returned to City Council on Tuesday evening to demand forcefully that council members and the city stand with them.

"Words of support are not enough," said Tammy Rojas, a coordinator with the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee, part of the grassroots organization Put People First! PA.

"Your actions show us who's side you're on. I suggest you start walking the talk because we're not playing games any more."

Pittsburgh-based UPMC is expected to close the former St. Joseph Hospital on the west side of Lancaster at the end of the month.

That will leave Lancaster General Hospital as the city's sole hospital, raising concerns about its capacity to handle an increased patient volume.

Rojas previously spoke before council about UPMC Pinnacle in December. On Tuesday, she called for a public meeting with UPMC's CEO and other executives present, and for Lancaster to support her organization's push to have Pennsylvania establish a public health care advocate, a state official who would work on behalf of patients and the public at large.

She noted that state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, citing UPMC's "corporate greed," sued it last week over its dealings with the Highmark insurance company, saying it was not living up to its obligations as a charity.

Councilwoman Janet Diaz is a stroke registrar at Lancaster General.

"We are overwhelmed," she said. "We are very busy." But she said the hospital is "fighting back" to make sure patients get access to the treatment they need.

The whole community has to come together on the issue, she said, and told Rojas: "On my behalf, I am supporting you."

Mayor Danene Sorace told LNP she shares the community's concerns about the closure.

But the city has no authority to keep UPMC Pinnacle Lancaster open, she said. That's a state matter, and the Department of Health has raised no objection to the closure.

So the city is doing what it can to ease the impact and secure the property's future, she said. When it comes time to make decisions about the latter, there will be community input, she pledged.