Hahnemann University Hospital announced Wednesday morning its plans to transfer the majority of its medical residency and fellowship programs to hospitals operated by Tower Health. The doctors are employed by Hahnemann but receive training through Drexel University’s College of Medicine. Tower, Drexel and Hahnemann all signed off on the plan.
When Hahnemann’s closure was announced at the end of June, the more than 550 doctors in training were left in the dark as to how they would proceed. Many had just moved to the city to begin a new academic year on July 1; others have established lives here. In a statement, Hahnemann, Drexel and Tower Health said this plan would result in “as little disruption as possible to the residents and fellows’ personal lives at a time when they are tasked with rigorous training.”
Medical residents are paid through federal funding distributed by Medicare. In the event that their training is disrupted and they need to switch placements, which is rare, their accepting institutions must receive the funding attached to the residents from the former employer. As of now, Hahnemann has not released the residents’ funding, but it said in a statement it would do so once it confirmed the cap value for every participant in the training program.
Tower Health will also seek to hire the faculty overseeing the residents in each program area.
Tower has six hospitals in the region, many in the Philadelphia suburbs: Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville; Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia; Jennersville Hospital in West Grove; Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville; Pottstown Hospital in Pottstown; and Reading Hospital in West Reading.
Drexel and Tower have an existing partnership. Earlier this year, the two announced a 20-year academic relationship between Drexel’s College of Medicine and Tower Health, along with plans to open a medical campus at Tower’s Reading Hospital. That is not slated to open until 2021.
No details were released regarding which medical programs would be transferred to which hospitals. Even before Wednesday’s announcement, the uncertainty worried some people.
“Programs are the size they are because of education as well as caring for patients,” said William Pinsky, president and CEO of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. “Any significant change to that number can potentially disrupt their activity and the quality of the program.”
Upon learning of the planned transfer of residents’ placements, Pinsky’s reaction was mixed.
“It’s a positive sign that people are talking and cooperating, but we’re not at the checkered flag yet,” he said. “It’s unclear whether Tower has the capability to expand its [graduate medical education] program to accommodate the large number of residents, as well as the range of programs.”
Medical residents will not be forced to go to Tower Health hospitals if they seek their own placements. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which must approve the academic placements for residents, had already worked to secure more than 900 spots throughout the country for orphaned Hahnemann residents. Each new placement for residents must be up to ACGME standards.
ACGME did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. The agency had already been scheduled to visit Hahnemann Friday to review the standards there.
Hahnemann, Drexel College of Medicine and Tower Health have submitted their letter of intent to transfer the residents to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where it must be approved. The announcement comes the day before a hearing on the Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition filed by Hahnemann’s owner scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Wilmington. — (WHYY)