‘Going Through Sheer Hell': Hahnemann Bankruptcy Throws Doctors' Training into Chaos, Lawyer Says, as Temporary Manager Is Put in Place

More than 500 doctors currently working in residency programs at Hahnemann University Hospital don't know what lies ahead, a lawyer said at an initial bankruptcy hearing

What to Know

  • Hahnemann handles 56,000 emergency visits each year, in addition to thousands of other patients at its Center City location.
  • St. Christopher's Hospital for Children is expected to stay open following the bankruptcy proceedings.
  • Hahnemann is set to close in September. It stopped accepting trauma patients last Friday.

The closure of Hahnemann University Hospital later this year and a pending bankruptcy for its parent company remains on a tumultous path, with hundreds of doctors in residence training wondering what the future holds.

"Residents already don’t make a ton of money," Dr. Crystal James, an anesthesiology resident, said in an interview. "We definitely don’t have money to break leases and to be relocated once again."

Doctors in residence are medical school graduates working in a hospital, usually under an attending physician, as part of on-the-job training in a medical specialty.

Dr. Shelley George, director of the anesthesiology residency program and an assistant professor at Drexel Medical School, said residents at Hahnemann are "going through sheer hell right now."

But good news bubbled to the surface as well this week as a renowned gender-affirming surgery program at the hospital has found a new home and the state announced a temporary manager to oversee operations through the eventual closure.

Hahnemann's unique Transgender Fellowship Training Program, the first of its kind in the United States, will relocate to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, according to a report in the Philadelphia Gay News.

The program is led by Dr. Kathy Rumer, who performs about 400 gender-affirming surgeries each year. It began in 2018 at Hahnemann, and will relocate to Jefferson next summer. Fellows in the program are trained in the surgery as well as "sensitive interactions with the trans community," the Gay News said.

Rumer was featured in NBC10's award-winning 2018 series, "Jude's Journey," which chronicled a transition for Jude Navas. The doctor also owns a cosmetic surgery practice in Ardmore.

The Pennsylvania Health Department, meanwhile, announced that a temporary manager will help usher Hahnemann through its closure and the ripple effect that losing a trauma center in Philadelphia will have on the city. The hospital began diverting patients from its Level 1 trauma center last weekend.

"Placing a temporary manager allows the department to immediately access information regarding the needs of patients and staff at both locations,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. "In working with PAHS officials to agree to a temporary manager, it allows us to ensure this process continues smoothly."

In its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filed in a Delaware federal court Monday, Philadelphia Academic Health System, a limited liability company, said it seeks to wind down operations at Hahnemann while keeping St. Christopher's in full operation.

In the filing, PAHS said it had liabilities between $100-$500 million with only $10-$50 million in assets.

PAHS has been battling with state and city lawmakers for the past week over the Hahnemann's future. 

Local and state health officials threatened to take the company to court for not following protocol to, among other things, slowly reduce operations while continuing to provide care.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is ordering Hahnemann University Hospital to stay open after the owner announced the facility would close on Sept. 6.

The fallout for more than 3,000 staff, nurses and doctors who work at the hospital began playing out in court on day one. At the first-day hearing in Delaware Bankruptcy Court, a lawyer for Drexel University College of Medicine said doctors in residence training at the hospital are left in limbo because of the announced closure.

The Drexel medical school utilizes Hahnemann as a training ground for more than 500 medical residents, and the two have an agreement in place that requires Hahnemann work to place those residents in different hospitals if it announces a closure, a lawyer for Drexel said in court. reported that attorney Kevin Kerns of Cozen O'Connor said Hahnemann is not living up to its end of the bargain.

"[The closure motion] is wildly incorrect. It says there is cooperation between Hahnemann and Drexel, and that is simply not taking place," Kerns told the court, according to "In fact, the opposite is happening and it's causing problems."

Hahnemann stopped accepting trauma patients on Friday night after submitting a closure plan to state health officials. The hospital notified the Pennsylvania Trauma Systems Foundation that it was "de-designating" as a Level 1 and 2 trauma facility.

“Patient safety continues to be our number one priority,” said Allen Wilen, the company's Chief Restructuring Officer. “We are implementing a comprehensive closure plan and working with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to ensure a smooth transition of patients and services.”

Hearing the plans to close Hahnemann Hospital, workers are worried about their jobs and the 40,000 people who go to the hospital’s emergency room each year. It turns out, the hospital had been facing financial problems for years. Despite the warning signs, Philadelphia politicians say they weren’t aware it was in such bad financial shape.

Wilen said the bankruptcy filing should give St. Christopher's the most flexibility for restructuring. One of Philadelphia's three children's hospitals, the 188 bed facility employs 1,900 people and serves some of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

According to court filings, PAHS owes $20.1 million to Tenent Healthcare, Hahnemann and St. Christopher's former owners; $14.1 million to Drexel University, which operates Hahnemann's medicial school; and nearly $700,000 to the city; among other debts.

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