City Hall: City Council Committee Approves Hospital Closure Bill

The Health Committee of Philadelphia City Council approved bill 190788 on Nov. 20, 2019 which would require hospitals preparing to shut down create a plan to handle the disruption of services. 

The bill was drafted in response to the closure of Hahnemann Hospital, which operated for 170 years and served a low-income population. If passed, the bill would require the management of hospitals preparing to close create a coordinated transition plan for patients. 

Councilmember Helen Gym, the sponsor of the bill, said Hahnemann was a critical safety net hospital that saw 50,000 emergency room patients a year, and it was one of only six maternity wards in the city. 

“Twenty years ago, the city had 19 places where women could give birth,” Gym said. “When [Hahnemann’s] maternity ward shut down, 800 moms-to-be had precious little time to find other care.”

Gym said 3,500 employees, some of whom had been with the hospital for decades, lost their jobs and had to make sacrifices to their pensions. 

“But the harsh realities and the destructive practices of a ruthless for profit health care market means that we in Philadelphia are going step up,” Gym said. “We are not going to allow this to happen again on our watch.”

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the Hahnemann closure was very disruptive to city residents. 

“Hahnemann’s owners had made no plans to transfer the care of inpatient or outpatient with ongoing medical conditions, such as pregnancy or cancer, to other facilities,” Farley said. “[It] had no plans to secure and store its medical records, or to make those records available to physicians accepting Hahnemann patients.”

Farley said this lack of foresight put patients at risk and put a strain on other medical facilities in the city.

“This dangerous situation occurred despite the fact that in retrospect, Hahnemann’s owners must have known for months before their announcement that they intended to close the hospital,” Farley said. 

Regina Franklin, a former 28-year employee at Hahnemann, said that the last days of working in the hospital were incredibly difficult. 

“[There] was a shortage of supplies,” Franklin said. “There weren’t even wash clothes for us to wash patients. We ended up cutting towels of the nursing department could wash patients.”

Franklin also said vendors were not being paid, so supplies were not being delivered. 

“Not only was it embarrassing to not have water cups for our patients, it was unethical,” Franklin said. 

The bill was approved and will be heard at the next meeting of city council. 

Lawrence McGlynn is a recent graduate of Temple University’s Klein College of Media and Communication where he earned a Master’s in Journalism. For the next several months he will be reporting out of City Hall on various council and committee meetings, the city’s budget, and how these impact the daily lives of Philadelphians.

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