The Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has served low-income residents for nearly two centuries. But now it could be turned into condominiums.
Hahnemann announced its parent company was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late last month, and that the hospital would be closing on or around September 6, 2019.
“This was a difficult but necessary decision due to financial difficulties,” the hospital stated.
The hospital describes itself as a 496-bed academic medical center located in the Center City area of Philadelphia (Philadelphia’s downtown area is colloquially referred to as Center City) that specializes in a variety of areas, including but not limited to level I adult trauma, OB/GYN, medical and radiation oncology, minimally invasive robotic surgery, orthopedics, bone marrow transplantation, renal analysis, and neurology/neurosurgery.
According to a column in Philly Mag by Kevin F. D’Mello, who is Director of Internal Medicine at Drexel University’s College of Medicine, Hahnemann was an important resource for low-income residents of Philadelphia who couldn’t otherwise afford medical care at other area hospitals. He added that the fundamental problem was the profit motive in the healthcare system.
“The public good of a safety-net hospital is so essential to our society that it must be maintained in Philadelphia at any cost. Safety-net hospitals such as Hahnemann, which serve mainly a low-income and vulnerable patient population, play an important role in maintaining the health and safety of the public, just as police and fire departments do,” D’Mello wrote. “This public good cannot truly be driven by a profit motive, and it is difficult to reconcile a safety-net hospital such as this being owned and operated by a for-profit company.”
“We have used and heard the phrase “City of Brotherly Love” so much that it has lost its meaning. Our wonderful city, composed of incredible people, has a moral responsibility to care for every person in it,” he continued. “There is much in our country’s health care system that does not make sense, most of which is trying to reconcile profit motive with addressing the health needs of all people.”
The decision to close Hahnemann University Hospital was ultimately made by Joel Freedman, a California-based investment banker. Hahnemann nurses say Freedman sees the downtown-area building as valuable real estate that could be turned into luxury condominium units or a hotel. In an op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, councilwoman Helen Gym and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) — a 2020 presidential candidate who is running on implementing a “Medicare for All” single-payer healthcare system — wrote that Freedman’s decision to close the hospital was driven by greed.
“By separating the health-care business from the real estate, Mr. Freedman has positioned himself to sell off the land for a fortune while allowing the hospital itself to wither away,” Sanders and Gym wrote. “He seems fine trading the lives of Hahnemann’s patients and the people who care for them for luxury condos or a hotel, so long as there’s a profit to collect along the way.”
On Thursday, thousands of Philly residents protested the closure of the hospital. Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner, who is one of the co-chairs of Sanders’ 2020 campaign, spoke at the protest and reportedly drew applause from the crowd when she called for a Medicare for All system.
I’m at the protest at Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, which is slated to close.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign co-chair, Nina Turner is speaking. She just got a ton of applause for Medicare-for-All. pic.twitter.com/jA0ttUCNT2
— Holly Otterbein (@hollyotterbein) July 11, 2019
The crowd of protesters had help from attendees of Netroots Nation — a conference for progressive activists taking place in Philadelphia this week. Melissa Byrne, who is grassroots director for the Sanders 2020 campaign, urged Netroots Nation attendees to join the community’s protest of Hahnemann’s planned closure.
“Show up at 11:30am to fight. Look for Gritty!” Byrne tweeted, referring to the Philadelphia Flyers mascot that’s been co-opted by anti-fascist organizers.
— melissa “CancelStudentDebt” byrne (@mcbyrne) July 11, 2019
Sanders called on the city’s government to work with Pennsylvania officials to find a solution to keep Hahnemann open. But in his op-ed, the Vermont senator made it clear that the long-term goal must be to remove the profit motive from healthcare entirely, and ensure healthcare as a right for all Americans.
“Under [Medicare for All], we are going to invest in health-care facilities that operate in underserved areas and we are going to end the culture of corporate greed that is denying health care to millions of people in the richest country on Earth,” Sanders and Gym wrote.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.