Hahnemann Hospital bankruptcy complicates Philadelphia’s bid to keep it open

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed it will put an independent monitor in place to oversee Hahnemann University Hospital’s closure.

Hahnemann University Hospital. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Hahnemann University Hospital. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Updated: 6:25 p.m.

Monday evening, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed it will put an independent monitor in place to oversee Hahnemann University Hospital’s closure. A spokesperson for the department said officials are in active discussions with Hahnemann’s leadership as to how and when the monitor will be put in place.

Over the weekend, Hahnemann’s parent company, Philadelphia Academic Health Systems, filed for bankruptcy protection.

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The Chapter 11 filing made late Sunday in Wilmington, Del. by Hahnemann also includes St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

Allen Wilen, chief restructuring officer for Philadelphia Academic Health System LLC, says the move will facilitate a restructuring or sale of St. Christopher’s, allowing it to remain in full operation.

Gary Samms, the lawyer for the hospital was in a Philadelphia court Monday morning arguing that in a proceeding there was moot, and that if the city wanted to block the hospital from closing it would have to do it in bankruptcy court.

“All we can do is tell everybody that we have worked with everybody who has been involved, we have met the Secretary of Health, we have met with Drexel, we have opened it up to all the constituents. We are doing it according to the law and in concert with those parties,” Samms said.

Philadelphia City Solicitor Marcel Pratt said the case should proceed in Philadelphia court.

“The hospital needs the approval of the health commissioner before it can close. That’s a law that dates back over 50 years and we are here to assert that,” Pratt said.

The judge ordered the city to submit questions to the court by the close of business on Monday and for Hahnemann to answer them by Tuesday morning. It’s not clear how soon a ruling will come after that.

State plans to name independent monitor

April Hutcheson, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania’s Health Department, said while it is not unique for the department to invoke an independent monitor in smaller institutional settings like nursing homes, doing so in the context of a large hospital is more complicated. Those complexities, plus navigating where the regulatory power of the state stops and that of the federal courts begins, has caused a delay in appointing a monitor, Hutcheson said.

The monitor will be an independent contractor, she said, which will serve as boots on the ground for the Health Department and ensure that hospital adheres to the closure plan it submitted.

“This is to ensure that while the doors are open, patients are being treated with the quality standard of care,” said Hutcheson.

The department’s cease and desist order, instructing Hahnemann not to take any action towards closing down, is still in place. It was also in place when the hospital announced it would stop accepting Level 1 and 2 trauma patients over the weekend.

None of the emergency departments at Temple, Penn, Einstein, or Jefferson reported a significant increase in patient volume over the weekend, but leadership at all four hospitals said they expected to, and were making additional staffing preparations.

“Up-staffing in the short-term is difficult, so we’ll just move some people around,” said Kraftin Schreyer, who directs the clinical operations at Temple Episcopal’s emergency department. 

“But we are tentatively prepared to increase staff in the coming months.” 

The real estate where the two hospitals are located wasn’t included in the filing.

The 495-bed hospital announced on Wednesday it would close in September due to unsustainable financial losses.

WHYY’s Tom MacDonald and Nina Feldman and The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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