Sanders joins fight against closure of Hahnemann University Hospital

Pat Loeb
July 15, 2019 - 7:06 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There were new developments Monday in the effort to avert the closure of Hahnemann Hospital: Local officials asked for federal financial help and a presidential candidate said he was introducing a bill that would provide just that.

Sen. Bernie Sanders announced a proposal for a $20 billion hospital rescue fund at a rally outside Hahnemann hospital.

“To help states and local communities purchase hospitals that are in financial distress,” he said.

Sanders announced his plan to propose the legislation on the same day that Gov. Tom Wolf and Mayor Jim Kenney asked the federal government for financial help to protect patients and workers at the hospital.

“We have responsibilities for people's well-being and the federal government has, in many ways, abdicated that,” he said. “They've dumped tons of money into nonsensical programs and they could be of real help for a change.”

Kenney said the city is studying the hospital's zoning so that it can't be flipped for another use.

"I think that he got into this operation solely as a land deal and knew the hospital was going to fail and tried to cash in on the property," the mayor said. 

City Council president Darrell Clarke said he's already been approached about re-use of the building.

"I was not even willing to entertain that conversation at this point. We're going to continue to push," Clarke said. 

Kenney and Wolf say they're willing to put up a total of $15 million to cover gaps in service as the hospital shuts down in hopes Drexel University can help attract a new owner that would keep it operating as a hospital, but called on the federal government to match that and cover the $40 million debt Hahnemann owes them.

Philadelphia Academic Health System Hahnemann’s corporate owner — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware last month and wants to close the hospital completely by early September.

The hospital’s creditors want to pull the plug on emergency room operations here by this Wednesday because the hospital’s operations continue to lose money.

Last Friday, the hospital shut down its maternity ward.

State and city officials are worried about the more than 2,000 jobs that will be lost if the hospital shuts down as its owners intend.

Sanders says the hospital’s private owner shouldn’t get away with ignoring the health care needs of thousands of people and instead be allowed to convert the institution into a real estate opportunity.

"I talked to the mayor the other day, and we have talked to City Council people, and we have talked to the unions," Sanders told CBS 3, "and I know that there's deep concern, and I know that local people are doing everything they can."

A spokesperson for Hahnemann University Hospital said the hospital has no comment at this time.

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KYW Newsradio's Mark Abrams contributed to this story.

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