It’s not as if Hahnemann University Hospital’s medical residents didn’t have enough trouble, scrambling to find a new place to train after the Center City institution’s owners announced its closure last month.
Now, some of the hospital’s more than 550 doctors in training are facing thousands of dollars in expenses to break their apartment leases, so they can move to other cities to continue their training.
Daniel Espina, for example, arrived in the United States seven weeks ago to start his residency in general surgery at Hahnemann, and now plans to move to Baltimore next week to get a proper start. He said Friday he expects it to cost him $6,000 or more to get out of his lease.
The annual salary of residents at Hahnemann was in the range of $50,000 to $60,000, according to an official at Drexel University, which manages the residents’ training.
The director of one of Hahnemann’s residency programs has been trying to find help for residents like Espina, but has met with little but frustration.
“Some landlords are seeing this as an opportunity to make lots of money on the residents," said Beth Mapow, who directs Hahnemann’s residency program in pathology. It has 21 participants, and three are having problems with landlords, she said.
“I have written letters to some local landlords in an effort to get residents released, but most are still happily following the lease agreements and raking in the cash," Mapow said. “I am aware that lease agreements are legal documents, but I had hoped our community would feel empathy for our residents and not take the opportunity to make their lives more difficult.”
Officials at the Pennsylvania Apartment Association East and the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia, which represents landlords, did not respond to requests for comment.
First-year residents are having the hardest time because they just arrived. "The academic year for our trainees begins at the end of June, beginning of July — so the hospital’s closure announcement couldn’t have come at a worse time. Three weeks earlier and most of the incoming trainees wouldn’t have signed leases,” she said.
A resident who moved to Philadelphia in May told Mapow in an email Thursday that she went immediately to her property manager for help when she learned of Hahnemann’s closure. She had “been met with a hard wall about the lease with absolutely no give or negotiation." On Friday, the landlord reduced the notice to 30 days, but is still asking for three months’ rent to break the lease, which will total about $8,000.
Another resident, who is moving to Providence, R.I., said his landlord agreed to reduce the required cancellation notice to 30 days from 60, but is still requiring one month’s rent as a fee. That means it will cost him $5,000 to get out of his lease, though he notified the leasing office of his need to leave the city before his new lease started. This would have been his third year in Philadelphia.
Mapow contacted Mayor Jim Kenney’s office on Thursday to see if the city had resources to help the residents.
The mayor’s office responded Friday, encouraging the residents to reach out to the Tenant Union Representative Network, a Philadelphia nonprofit whose mission is to defend the rights and interests of tenants and homeless people, and Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, which provides free legal services in civil matters.
Mapow shared that information with residents Friday, but said they had trouble reaching anyone.