Senator Bernie Sanders Denounces Closing of Philadelphia Hospital

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) criticized a plan to close a Philadelphia hospital, which dates back to 1848. The Democratic presidential candidate denounced the decision, saying it reflects the nation’s greedy health care system.Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia is set to close in the next 90 days, according to hospital officials. The Level 1 trauma center and teaching hospital, which serves low-income patients, was purchased by American Academic Health System in 2018.

Staff were told in April that 175 employees would be laid off as part of a plan to keep the financially struggling hospital open, WHYY reported. American Academic Health System CEO Joel Freedman said he “relentlessly pursued numerous strategic options” to keep Hahnemann open but it “cannot continue to lose millions of dollars each month and remain in business." The Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), which represents the 800 registered nurses who work at the hospital, accused Freedman of having “basically plundered” the ailing hospital over the last 18 months. They argue that he has “driven it into the ground.”

“He has been unwilling to work with stakeholders, elected officials, and prospective buyers in a productive way to find a long-term solution to this,” Samir Sonti, a spokesman for PASNAP, told WHYY. Sonti said that he believed Freedman viewed the hospital as a real estate investment and “not a hospital that provides care to low-income population and employs 3,000 workers.”Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro condemned Freedman’s decision to close down the hospital.“Hahnemann Hospital is set to close because its investment-banker-owner can’t turn a buck on the life saving hospital in Philly.

He declared bankruptcy and hopes the fire sale can begin soon so he can move on—leaving patients, med students & 2,500 employees to fend for themselves,” Shapiro tweeted.Shaprio said that his office had filed objections in court and is doing what it can to “protect its vital assets,” including 500 medical students and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, which was purchased alongside Hahnemann.

“I also know that when hospitals like #Hahnemann that serve predominately poor, minority patients can’t keep their doors open then something is wrong with our health care system,” Shapiro added. “Clearly we need structural reforms. In the meantime, we will make our case in court.”Sanders said the closure plan reflects the country’s business model for its health care system. The business model “is not about healing people or providing access to medical care—it is about making as much money as possible for insurance companies, drug companies, and wealthy investors,” Sanders told Politico.

“The situation in Philadelphia illustrates the entire problem: In a city with one of the highest poverty rates in the country, a major hospital serving low-income communities is on the verge of laying off 2,500 people, abandoning 500 medical residents, and closing its operations thanks to an investment firm looking to make as much money as possible in a corporate fire sale,” the Vermont senator added.

On Twitter, Sanders said he was proud to stand with Pennsylvania officials, unions and employees who are standing up “to fight the corporate greed that is destroying our health care system.” Sanders then reiterated his call for “Medicare for All.” According to Politico, Sanders spoke at the PASNAP’s annual conference in April. The union endorsed Sanders in his last presidential bid.

I’m proud to stand with all the Pennsylvania elected officials, unions and workers who are standing up to fight the corporate greed that is destroying our health care system. It is time for Medicare for All.

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 7, 2019

Hahnemann’s emergency department treats approximately 40,000 patients a year. About two-thirds of the patients seen by Hahnemann have government health insurance, including Medicaid or Medicare.

Those patients are now expected to head to other Philadelphia hospitals. Ruth Lefton, COO for Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, told WHYY that she expected her hospital to see “quite a few patients” once Hahnemann closes. Lefton said that the hospital will need to build up its staff to accommodate the flood of new patients.

Other area hospitals also said that they are preparing for Hahnemann’s imminent closure.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.