Should Pope Francis have a medical emergency during his visit to Philadelphia in September, he will be taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center's new trauma center in University City, sources with knowledge of the plans tell NBC10.
The hospital, located at 38th Street and Powelton Avenue, was chosen based on its proximity to where the pope will stay as well as public appearances during his two day visit to Philadelphia on September 26 and 27, according to the sources who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The pontiff is making eight appearances during the trip including an invite-only mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, speech at Independence Mall, visit to the city's jail, a public Mass along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as well as two events at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Montgomery County. The final schedule for the trip was released Tuesday morning.
Sources said Presbyterian also has another key feature: a helipad built to support a government helicopter that's heavier than typical medical choppers.
The 78-year-old leader of the Roman Catholic church had some medical issues in the past, but is otherwise in good health. Pope Francis had the upper part of his right lung removed when he was a young man after a severe infection, The Associated Press reported in 2013. Last July, he canceled a series of appearances and recently told elderly parishioners he was "a bit old and sick," though he did not elaborate.
Exhaustion is another concern. The trip is not just a visit to Philadelphia, but a several city tour that will begin in Cuba on September 19 before moving to Washington, D.C. and New York City.
A spokeswoman for Penn Medicine declined to comment on the hospital's designation. City officials deferred questions to the U.S. Secret Service. A Secret Service spokesman said the agency would not comment on such plans.
Presbyterian is one of 12 Level 1 trauma centers — the highest classification possible — in our region. Level 1 trauma centers have surgeons and specialists available 24 hours a day and teach trauma care among other qualifications. The center is brand-new, having been built from the ground up and opening in February.
Mark Ross, Southeast Emergency Preparedness Manager for The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), could not confirm nor deny Presbyterian's selection, but said every local trauma center is equipped to handle VIP patients like Pope Francis.
"We typically do site visits for homeland security to collect data about what specialties are available, helipads, security features," he said. "This is pretty normal activity."
Ross said all hospitals have been preparing to treat not only dignitaries, but the millions of people traveling to see the pope.