Bernie Sanders holds rally against Hahnemann University Hospital closure

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania officials say they're willing to spend millions to help patients and community of the hospital that's slated to close as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders came to Philadelphia for a rally at Hahnemann University Hospital.

The rally happened around 2 p.m. Monday at 230 Broad Street.

Sanders railed against the Hahnemann property owners.

"At a time when our country faces a major healthcare crisis, when 80 million Americans are either uninsured or under-insured, including tens of thousands of people here in the Philadelphia area, we should be moving - we must be moving forward to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, and we should not be talking about shutting down a major hospital and converting that property into hotels or condos or some other real estate opportunity," Sanders said to those in attendance.

"Today we send a very loud and clear message to Mr. Joel Freedman, the investment banker from Los Angeles. And that message is as simple as one can imagine, and that is: do not shutdown this hospital," Sanders said.

Hundreds of people packed Broad Street. Hahnemann workers were grateful for the national attention.

Tracey Schenley, a nurse on the recovery room at Hahnemann says, "Because that's what it deserves. It's bigger than just here, it should be a national issue, people should care about it."

Gov. Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Monday that it isn't responsible to give taxpayer money to the hospital's venture capital parent company.

They accused them of taking Hahnemann into bankruptcy court to protect profits they extracted from the 495-bed hospital and community. On Facebook, Sanders says Hahnemann's for-profit owners want to make money off the hospital's real estate.

The firm says it tried to keep the hospital open. Its bankruptcy filing says the hospital's finances were in unexpectedly bad condition when it took over last year.

Wolf and Kenney pledged up to $15 million to help meet the health care needs of Hahnemann patients and the community, and they want the federal government to match that and cover the company's debts of $40 million to the state and city.

"I'm afraid if we don't do this right that there are going to be people who need acute care and aren't going to be able to get it when they need it," Wolf said Monday after a news conference in the Capitol on an unrelated topic.

Sanders said Hahnemann's closure is an example of corporate greed in health care and called on Freedman to keep it open.

"If Joel Freedman is able to shut down Hahnemann and make a huge profit by turning this hospital into luxury condos, it will send a signal to every vulture fund on Wall Street that they can do the same thing in community after community after community," Sanders told the crowd.

Sanders said that a Medicaid-for-All system he is proposing would protect hospitals in underserved areas and he pledged to introduce legislation to create a $20 billion emergency fund to help states and communities take over financially distressed hospitals.

Late June's bankruptcy filing said Hahnemann's finances were in unexpectedly bad condition when Freedman's firm took over last year and it saw a significant reduction in patient volumes, outpatient procedures and surgeries in 2018.

It also said delays in the state's payments, as well as a reduction in payments of approximately $17 million per year, hurt the hospital's finances.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this post.
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