Hahnemann’s Bankruptcy Spurs Fierce Reactions

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LOCAL 1199C Executive VP Chris Woods: “It is in the best interests of all Philadelphians for Hahnemann to remain open.”

The bankruptcy declared by Hahnemann University Hospital’s owner sent shock waves through Philadelphia’s economic and political communities.

The news was not unexpected. That the hospital, which has been a Philadelphia landmark since 1848, was in serious difficulties, having run deeply in the red for some time, was well known. And experts acknowledge that the elderly plant is difficult to upgrade to support the needs of modern inpatient medicine.

Given Center City’s current real-estate boom, revitalizing the site, with a prime location at Broad & Race Streets, is easy to imagine. Future uses need not be medically connected.

But the impact on health services in Philadelphia will be dramatic. Hahnemann may treat up to 100,000 patients a year, heavily drawn from lower-income communities. Meeting their needs will stress other medical facilities that would be forced to pick up the slack.

More immediately, 3,000 Hahnemann jobs are on the line. Their relationship with the ultimate owner, American Academic Health System, had long been contentious. Acrimony turned to fury after the announcement that the system intended to close the hospital rather than reorganize.

AAHS’s decision is complicated by the fact that health care is a heavily regulated industry. There are lots of business moves that providers aren’t allowed to make without heavy oversight from public officialdom. And Pennsylvania’s top public official, Gov. Tom Wolf, dropped the hammer in a hurry.

Last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order on plans to close the hospital.

“Hahnemann University Hospital is vital to the community’s health care and its owners cannot stop treating patients with no plans in place for their continued care,” Secretary of Health Dr. Levine said. “There is a legal process in place to ensure that this difficult transition happens in a way that protects public health. Hahnemann must follow that process, including keeping its emergency department open.”

GOV. TOM WOLF criticized “a lack of response from hospital ownership.”

The parent company had announced plans to close the emergency room this month and cease all operations in September.

Gov. Tom Wolf expressed frustration with “a lack of response from hospital ownership [that] did not provide the confidence that regulations were being adhered to, and so the department took legal action so that the hospital makes no attempt or action toward closing and or eliminating services, particularly emergency-department services, until the Department of Health has received notice and approved a closure plan.”

Health-care unions declared war at a rally outside City Hall on Monday.

National Union of Hospital & Healthcare Workers District 1199C called on all parties to remain at the negotiating table to find a way to keep the hospital open. District 1199C also called for union contracts to be respected regardless of what happens with the bankruptcy filing.

“Joel Freedman and AAHS may be ready to walk away from their commitments in Philadelphia,” said Chris Woods, executive VP of District 1199C. “But we know that there are many more people with a stake in keeping Hahnemann Hospital open. We are calling on all stakeholders, including our partners at the state and city level, to stay engaged in the effort to save this hospital. This isn’t a done deal yet.”

District 1199C also called for parties to respect the union contracts that are already in place throughout any bankruptcy proceeding. The owners of Hahnemann cannot unilaterally change the wages, benefits, or any other terms of employment for District 1199C members.

“We reject any attempt to use this bankruptcy maneuver as a way to liquidate the union contracts,” said Woods. “We also want to remind everyone that Hahnemann is required to respect District 1199C’s contract over the coming weeks, even if the worst-case scenario occurs and the facility closes permanently.”

Nurses at Hahnemann University Hospital report that they lack the basic supplies necessary to provide quality patient care. The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses & Allied Professionals has found that American Academic Health System is failing to replenish supplies as they run out.

“We’re working like crazy and treating every patient that comes in,” said Hahnemann emergency-room nurse Kira Prendergast. “But we desperately need supplies and the current management is just ignoring the shortages.”

The Health Care Facilities Act grants the Secretary of Health the authority to appoint a temporary manager to oversee operations of a hospital in the interest of the health and safety of patients. The Department of Health exercised this power last year by installing a manger to run nursing homes previously operated by Skyline.

“We’ve got enough experienced and dedicated nurses in the hospital to treat every single case,” said Hahnemann operating-room nurse Dawn Andonian. “We need the State to get in here and make sure we have supplies so we can do our job.”

PASNAP President Maureen May: “The State needs to appoint a temporary manager to run the hospital.”

A PASNAP analysis has found that AAHS may have pursued a corporate structure at Hahnemann to allow its owner, Joel Freedman, to profit from a real-estate sale while shuttering the hospital’s operations.

“Joel Freedman’s greed and disregard for patient safety and the public health appears to know no limits,” said PASNAP President Maureen May, RN. “The State needs to appoint a temporary manager to run the hospital immediately.”

The city’s congressional delegation has presented a united front. In an effort to ensure that Hahnemann continues to keeps it doors open to serve those most in need, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Congress Members Brendan Boyle, Dwight Evans and Mary Gay Scanlon (all D-Phila.), called on Hahnemann Hospital and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children owner Joel Freedman to reverse course on the planned closure.

COUNCIL PRESIDENT Darrell Clarke: “The location of Hahnemann’s emergency room, in particular, has often meant the difference between life and death for many city residents.”

“The employees and patients of Hahnemann Hospital and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children have put their faith and trust in you,” the members wrote. “In purchasing these hospitals, you made a commitment to these people and to the city of Philadelphia. We ask that you honor that commitment by exploring all options to protect these important institutions, and do everything you can to reach an agreement that will keep them open.”

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke, in whose district the hospital lies, pressed for a better outcome.

“It is difficult to overstate the critical role that Hahnemann University Hospital has in Philadelphia, and particularly the North Philadelphia community. Hahnemann provides emergency and acute care to a largely low-income population who could not easily be served by providers in other neighborhoods. The location of Hahnemann’s emergency room, in particular, has often meant the difference between life and death for many city residents.

“In addition, the hospital employs people in critically needed, family-sustaining jobs. The loss of these employees in neighborhoods that are already underserved would be just as detrimental to public health as the loss of Hahnemann University Hospital itself.

“For these reasons, I urge AAHS, Drexel University and lawmakers to work towards a more-positive resolution to this fiscal crisis.”

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