City Council is hosting a hearing on a bill Wednesday requiring hospitals to provide advance notice of closure to Philadelphia’s Health Department.
The bill sponsored by Councilwoman Helen Gym, calls for hospitals who are closing to provide a plan that includes continuity of care for patients, ongoing management of medical records and assistance for staff transitioning to other jobs.
If a hospital does not comply, the city solicitor can bring a lawsuit and have the court appoint a special manager.
“Pennsylvania has some of the weakest laws in the nation when it comes to hospital closings and we wanted to make sure that we at the local level strengthen our engagement in advance of any type of hospital closure,” Gym said of the proposed legislation.
The legislation is based off of a 1960s-era city regulation, which only requires advance notice about the anticipated closures of medical facilities with emergency rooms.
The sudden closure of Hahnemann Hospital resulted in the loss of a crucial safety net hospital for Philadelphia. Almost half of facility’s patients relied on Medicaid and two-thirds were Black or Latinx.
Hahnemann’s owners said the hospital, which opened in 1848, was losing money. When Hahnemann closed, the city lost a Level 1 trauma center treating gunshot victims and one of only six maternity wards.
The closure caused more than 800 pregnant women to suddenly be without care and more than 2,500 people to lose their jobs.
Gym said the proposed legislation provides needed tools and time to help the city pursue all possible options to avoid hospital closures and loss of care.
“More time gives us more options and allows us to determine what’s in the best interest of our city and not just a private corporation,” she stated.
“I don’t want something like Hahnemann and the way that it happened to happen again and unless a law like this passes, I think that it is very possible that we could see other things happening.”
“Our health care system is fragile. It is determined by a ruthless, relentless and for-profit market and people’s lives are on the line and so in those kinds of situations, I feel like it’s responsible for municipal and local governments, as well as state legislators to balance the odds to make sure that Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians best interests will be in place,” Gym continued.
The bill is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Curtis Jones, Jannie Blackwell, Charelle Parker, Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla, Bobby Henon, William Greenlee, Allen Domb, Derek Green and Al Taubenberger.
The public hearing will be held Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at City Council Chambers. City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley; a former academic hospitalist at Hahnemann; senior vice president of the University of Pennsylvania Health System; a practicing midwife, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) are expected to testify during the hearing.