A face-off between state officials and the owner of Hahnemann University Hospital over the short-term future of the Center City institution sharpened Thursday.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health ordered the owner of Hahnemann University Hospital to not take any action toward the closure of Hahnemann until regulators approve a plan that ensures “the safety of those persons who are reliant on the care provided by Hahnemann.”
Meanwhile, Hahnemann’s warning that it will cease operations and put 2,572 hospital employees out of work by early September arrived in Harrisburg. The layoff notice was dated Tuesday.
The “cease and desist” letter from state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said the department had concluded that “an immediate closure of Hahnemann or the termination of any services” “may cause irreparable harm to the health and safety of patients” in Philadelphia, especially during the Fourth of July holiday week.
If the 496-bed Hahnemann closes as announced by September, it will be the second hospital that serves large numbers of poor and indigent patients to do so in recent years. The 146-bed St. Joseph’s Hospital, in North Philadelphia closed in March 2016 after state officials pulled a special subsidy that had kept it open.
Hospitals like Hahnemann and St. Joseph’s, with a large portion of their patients on Medicaid, have a hard time eking out a profit because the government insurance for the poor does not pay enough to cover costs, experts say.
Hahnemann officials had little to say Thursday in reaction to the regulators’ action: “We acknowledge receipt of the [Department of Health] letter, and as we have said from the start, we intend to conduct the closure in an orderly manner that prioritizes the health care needs of our patients.”
Hahnemann’s closure would mark the end of a short but turbulent chapter in the long history of the hospital, which traces its roots to a homeopathic medical college that opened in 1848.
A California investment banker, Joel Freedman, bought Hahnemann and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children early last year from Tenet Healthcare Corp. for $170 million, but found the financial condition of Hahnemann, in particular, much worse than expected. He said in April that the hospital was losing $3 million to $5 million a month and could not stay open if he didn’t get help from the state and better rates from commercial insurers.