Hahnemann workers say operations are winding down; owners plan to file for bankruptcy

Despite orders from the Pennsylvania Health Department not to close yet, Hahnemann staff say hospital leadership is scaling back operations.

Hospital workers gathered Friday morning outside Hahnemann owner Joel freedman’s Rittenhouse apartment building to demand he keep the hospital open (Nina Feldman/WHYY)

Hospital workers gathered Friday morning outside Hahnemann owner Joel freedman’s Rittenhouse apartment building to demand he keep the hospital open (Nina Feldman/WHYY)

Updated: 10:05 a.m. Saturday

Hahnemann University Hospital’s owner notified the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the board that oversees accrediting programs for residents and fellows, that it would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday with the intent of shutting down the hospital.

In a post on its website, the accreditation council said that “Hahnemann is anticipated to discontinue hospital operations in coordination with the Pennsylvania Department of Health on or about September 6, 2019, and will shut its doors at a later date to be determined.”

The expected bankruptcy filing comes after the state Health Department issued a cease-and desist-letter to the leadership of Philadelphia Academic Health System, Hahnemann’s owner, on Thursday, ordering it not to shutter the hospital until the department received a formal closure plan.

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State Health Secretary Rachel Levine met Friday in Harrisburg with officials from the hospital and its owner, her office said in a news release.

“We were pleased to meet today with officials from Hahnemann and Philadelphia Academic Health System to discuss their closure plan, which has been submitted to the department,” Levine said in the statement. “Both parties expressed their commitment to working in a way that protects public health with minimum disruption to patients and staff. We appreciate the owners’ willingness to hear our concerns and their intent to meet our recommendations.”

Representatives from the Health Department were on site at the hospital Friday, Levine’s office confirmed, saying that it was “continuing to monitor the situation at Hahnemann. The department received the closure plan from Hahnemann late Thursday evening and is working to address concerns regarding that plan with Hahnemann officials.”

The cease-and-desist order will remain, the statement said, “as further conversations between the department and Hahnemann officials continues.”

Friday morning, several dozen nurses gathered outside the Rittenhouse apartment of Joel Freedman, chairman and CEO of Hahnemann’s parent company, American Academic Health System, to demand that he keep the hospital open. Hahnemann’s owner told the hospital staff Wednesday that the 500-bed facility and Level 1 Trauma Center would shut down by Sept. 6, with emergency services terminating as early as this weekend.

Loss of those emergency services as tourists flock to Philadelphia for Fourth of July events was among the concerns cited by Health Secretary Levine in an interview Thursday about the cease-and-desist order. Hundreds of hospital staff rallied alongside Philadelphia City Council members at City Hall at noon Thursday in support of the hospital. And KYW Newsradio reported that the city was seeking an injunction to prevent the hospital from closing,

Freedman’s perceived ulterior motives were the focus of the Friday demonstration. Dozens of hospital workers stood outside his apartment building, waving signs and chanting, “Joel Freedman, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.”

One man dressed as Rich Uncle Pennybags, the Monopoly game mascot, complete with top hat, cigar, and a name tag that read, “Joel Freedman.”

“It just seems like he certainly doesn’t care about the business he’s gotten into with Hahnemann, but clearly he cares about something,” said ICU nurse Talia Gottesman, who helped organize the protest. She noted that Freedman had not followed proper procedure in submitting the 90-day notice or the closure plan required by the state Health Department, causing her and others to be suspicious that he might have ulterior motives for the hospital property at Broad and Vine streets.

“We all know that the location of Hahnemann is really prime real estate right now, so that’s as much as we can do, is put two and two together.”

Meanwhile, hospital staff say they are being told to begin winding down operations.

Mary Grant, a nurse in Hahnemann’s medical psychiatric department, attended Friday’s protest. On Thursday, she said, her director asked her to hand out letters to each of her patients, letting them know that the hospital would be closing and they could get help elsewhere in the future.

But Grant is not confident that’s the case — the 20-bed med/psych unit at Hahnemann handles many patients who are suicidal and don’t take their medication as directed on their own, she said.

And, she noted, there aren’t that many beds around Philadelphia that can care for people with acute psychiatric conditions who also have serious medical needs.

“Just thinking right now, because I worked yesterday — there are many patients that we will send out, but there are two patients that I don’t know where they’ll be placed,” said Grant, who has been at Hahnemann for 23 years. “It’s life threatening if they aren’t taken care of appropriately.”

Many of her patients have been deemed unable to care for themselves by mental health courts, Grant said. Not all of them understood what the letter meant when she delivered it, she said, but those who did were very concerned about what would happen to them and where they would go.

In addition, hospital workers said, services are starting to be cut. Jenna Mechalas, a nurse in the medical/surgical unit, said she just received an email from one of the heads of the laboratory team, notifying her that the labs would no longer be moving blood from the blood bank to the emergency department or labor-and-delivery floor.

“So if someone comes in hemorrhaging, a nurse has to go up there and grab the blood and make it way down there,”  said Mechalas. “Those seconds are vital.”

Mechalas said the number of patients at Hahnemann is decreasing, too. She said there are usually about 40 patients on her unit. As of Friday, she said, there were 22. She didn’t know whether to attribute that to the news of the hospital’s closing or patients being rapidly discharged.

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