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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters and protesters outside Hahnemann University Hospital on July 15. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters and protesters outside Hahnemann University Hospital on July 15. Photo: Nigel Thompson/AL DÍA News.

Bernie Sanders stands with Hahnemann

The 2020 presidential hopeful was in Philly on Monday to support the struggling hospital and sound the alarm on healthcare. 

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A day after hospital staff and patients joined local organizations to protest the closing of Hahnemann University Hospital, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was in town to put its problem into context. 

“This is not just a Philadelphia issue. It is not just a Vermont issue. It is a national issue,” said Sanders to the crowd of 1,500 that gathered on North Broad Street at 2 pm.

The presidential candidate is known for sounding the alarm for single-payer healthcare — a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign.

His message on the issue hasn’t changed in four years, and Hahnemann’s demise is the perfect example for Sanders to bring it up again going into 2020. However, he is not alone this time around, as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has also supported a single-payer system.

“We should not be talking about shutting down a major hospital and turning that property into hotels or condos,” said Sanders.

After announcing bankruptcy at the beginning of the month, Hahnemann has slowly begun to wind down its services, beginning with its maternity ward on July 12 and is set to stop admitting patients to its ER on July 17. The entire operation will cease in September.

Hahnemann’s closing not only leaves 2,500 without jobs in the city, but without its contributions in providing medical services for low-income patients, a void is left for the city’s most vulnerable. 

Those that can be transferred will either head all the way to North Philly to Temple University Hospital, or nearby Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. 

Susan Bowes, President of the Hahnemann Nurses Association said Temple is too far of a trip for some Hahnemann patients and Thomas Jefferson doesn’t accept every insurance plan. 

“We are talking — as all of you know — about a hospital that serves some of the most vulnerable people in this city,” said Sanders.  

Also to speak on Monday afternoon were Philadelphia at-large Councilwoman Helen Gym, Sanders’ campaign co-chair Nina Turner, Executive Vice President of District 1199c Union Chris Woods, and patient Maria Garcia. All decried the hospital’s closing, but guaranteed a fight to save it.

“This is our line in the sand. This is for every mom about to give birth, for every cancer patient fighting for their lives. This is for every young person walking through these streets, and this is for every worker who shows up each and every day doing more with less,” said Councilwoman Gym. “We’ve got your back.”

Sanders put forth his own $20 billion emergency funding plan for hospitals like Hahnemann. It would allow localities to purchase the hospitals in their communities to keep them away from the “Wall Street vultures” as Sanders described them.  

In a last-ditch effort, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced that their administrations were prepared to spend $15 million and are asking for the federal government to match the amount to cover the gaps in care caused by Hahnemann’s closing.

Joel Freedman, the CEO of American Academic Health System — the owner of Hahnemann and main target of abuse dished out at the rally — released a statement regarding the announcement saying that the funding is too late.

Instead, it will “aid in the transition of care resulting from Hahnemann’s closure,” Freedman said in a statement. 

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