Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was in Philadelphia July 15 to join a rally protesting the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital.
“We shouldn’t be talking about shutting down a major hospital and converting that property into hotels or condos or some other real estate opportunity,” Sanders said. “This is not a complicated issue. It is a question of getting our priorities right. Providing health care to the sick, the elderly, the vulnerable, working families and the poor is more important than huge profits for an investment banker.”
Hahnemann, which was founded in 1848, has lost money for more than a decade and is facing a monthly financial shortfall of $3 million to $5 million, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. The hospital treats 50,000 emergency patients annually and employs about 2,500 workers, according to speakers at the rally. The hospital is expected to close in September.
Hundreds gathered for the rally, waving yellow flags, blue and white Bernie signs and red signs with words like “Medicare for All” and “Heal the Sick Tax the Rich.” Above the crowd, people peered out of the hospital windows to watch.
Sanders, who is Jewish and one of the frontrunners in the Democratic presidential primary, addressed the closure of the hospital and used it as an opportunity to delve into his platform to institute a “Medicare for All” plan.
“We’ve got to be honest, and when we talk about what is proposed here, we have to ask some very hard questions,” said Sanders, who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn and spent some time working in a kibbutz after college. “And one of those questions is simple and straightforward: How many people will in fact die if this hospital is shut down? And we say human life is more important than corporate profits.”
American Academic Health System bought Hahnemann and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children last year for $170 million, according to the Inquirer. In April, CEO Joel Freedman announced the layoff of 175 employees and warned that the hospital was running out of money.
Sanders said he would introduce legislation to the Senate to create a $20 billion emergency trust fund to help state and local communities purchase hospitals. He also argued for guaranteeing health care for all, regardless of income, and ensuring that prescription drugs are affordable.
Rene Rothstein-Rubin, the medical director of multidisciplinary cancer programs at Hahnemann, who is Jewish, was at the rally. She noted that the Hahnemann takes in many more uninsured patients than other hospitals in the city, and that they charge less for treatments.
The rally is “great,” Rothstein-Rubin said, but “it’s a little late. I wish it would’ve happened a month ago. This place serves some of the poorest people, as well as some wealthy people.”
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