‘Stressed and Sad': Hahnemann Patients, Doctors Fear Uncertain Future

"It's not fair to the people, the indigent people, the poor people, the people that don't have insurance. What are they gonna do?"

What to Know

  • Patients and doctors say they fear the impact of the impeding closure of Center City, Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital.
  • Despite moves by both the city and state, Hahnemann has moved forward with plans to close its doors by September.
  • The hospital plans to close its maternity ward by Friday.

Maria Garcia Bulkley hoped she would be surrounded by familiar nurses and doctors when she received her final cancer treatment next month. Instead, she was left feeling "stressed and sad" after being notified that she would have to look elsewhere for that last regimen of cancer-fighting medicine.

Bulkley, sitting in a wheelchair and hooked up to an IV bag and machines monitoring her vital signs, was one of hundreds of patients, doctors, nurses, elected officials and supporters rallying Thursday against the planned September closure of Center City Philadelphia's Hahnemann University Hospital.

A pediatric physician assistant at another hospital, Bulkley has been receiving treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at Hahnemann since February.

"I wanted to do the final treatment with my new 'second family' and celebrate with them when it was over. It's a little selfish, but it means a lot to me. They have gotten me through this," she said.

Thursday's rally spilled onto Broad Street as hundreds called for Hahnemann's owners to put "patients before profits."

The hospital's sudden closure announcement has upended the lives of both employees and patients in recent weeks. They fear not only the impact on their own lives, but the impact on the community as a whole as it potentially loses a medical center that caters to some of the city's poorest populations.

To offset that impact, both the city and the state have stepped in to try to halt Hahnemann's closure.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued a joint statement decrying Hahnemann's owners and their filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"The situation at Hahnemann University Hospital, caused by CEO Joel Freedman and his team of venture capitalists, is an absolute disgrace and shows a greed-driven lack of care for the community," the governor and mayor said.

Despite the backlash, the hospital has continued with its plans, announcing that on Friday it will close its maternity ward. Before that, it moved to divert trauma patients to other area hospitals.

"It's not fair to the people, the indigent people, the poor people, the people that don't have insurance. What are they gonna do?" said Kathy Maloney, a nurse who has worked at Hahnemann since 1981.

Maloney showed up to the rally bearing a sign that read, "Hahnemann Hospital saved my husband's life." There, he was treated for bladder cancer and has been in remission for the last eight years, she said.

It's that type of quality care that others in the community will miss out on if Hahnemann closes, Maloney said. "I just can't believe that they're gonna let this happen to our population here. It's not fair to these people," she said through tears.

Kevin D'Mello, a hospitalist at Drexel University's College of Medicine, said that despite the number of alternative hospitals in the region, patients could still go without care if Hahnemann shutters.

"Not all the hospitals will accept them. Certain ones will, but can they handle the load of 50,000 patients per year? I don't think so, and I think that's a public health risk to our city," he said.

The recent announcement that the Drexel will transfer the majority of its residency and fellowship programs to Tower Health, which operates six hospitals mostly in Philadelphia's suburbs, has not helped to soften the blow, D'Mello added.

"A lot of people came here to help the underserved. The mission of our hospital and all our physicians and nurses is to help this population, not to be sort of sent off somewhere to learn a different type of medicine in a small community hospital," he said.

Despite the uncertainty, though, Hahnemann employees remain determined to serve the community until the last possible moment, D'Mello said.

"I'm coming here until they board this place up and they tell me not to come. I'm gonna be here. So we keep doing what we're doing."

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