Health care in Philadelphia is at an inflection point that we must address and do so quickly. The news over the past few months has been alarming. We witnessed the closure of Hahnemann University Hospital – taken over by California-based for-profit American Academic Health System two years prior. That same system also put the future at risk for St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and its actions may also result in some 530 residency slots leaving our city’s academic medical centers. Jefferson, Einstein, Temple and others, stepped up and stepped in to help the many patients, doctors and caregivers impacted by the sudden closure of Hahnemann, for one simple reason … it was the right thing to do. Just last week, Mercy Hospital in West Philadelphia, owned by Michigan-based Trinity Health, announced its closure.
These systems – both for profit and non-profit and located outside Philadelphia - failed to keep these institutions viable in a city that desperately needs access to health care. Collectively, we have failed the patients and the caregivers of our great city. More than 10 hospitals in the region have closed in the past 20 years – delivering an economic blow, typically costing hundreds, if not thousands, of good-paying jobs, and further limiting patient access to quality health care. These two latest closures should be a wakeup call to the federal, state and local government agencies that hold the future of Philadelphia-area health care in their hands.
Jefferson and Einstein, coming together as two mission-driven, non-profit, safety-net hospitals with strong Philadelphia roots, see our merger as an opportunity to improve patient access to care in vulnerable areas of the city.
Jefferson and Einstein are culturally aligned — with a mutual goal of improving lives for all of our patients. At a time when regional and national politicians and leaders are seeking ways to better support essential safety net hospitals, we see this merger as a creative solution to preserve access and enhance services to the residents of North Philadelphia — and underserved communities, generally for one simple reason…it is the right thing to do.
We are very disappointed in the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) and Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (AG) attempt to block our merger and the benefits it would provide our city, and we will take time to review their complaint and prepare our response.
We strongly disagree with the FTC and AG’s position that the merger would reduce competition in any part of the Philadelphia region. By focusing solely on patients with commercial insurance, the FTC and AG failed to appreciate the importance of this transaction to maintaining access to high-quality health care Philadelphia area residents. This was always, and is about doing the right thing for the communities of Philadelphia and the patients we serve. In fact, Jefferson and Einstein demonstrated a financial commitment to ensure much-needed access to care in North Philadelphia.
These are the facts: 30% of hospitals in Philadelphia that predominantly serve government insured and under-insured populations have closed in the last few years. Our underserved communities need and deserve better access to quality health care. We are concerned about the impact of this decision and the effect it will have on our communities. The FTC and AG had an opportunity to support a merger that would have joined two non-profits committed to doing what’s right for their patients by coming together with their combined strengths to improve patient access to high quality care for those who need it most.
In a city and region that prides itself on our medical and educational assets, we are becoming a tale of two healthcare cities for those at the margin. We are at a crucial point and we need to support voiceless members of our community who depend on a vibrant Einstein for their health and well-being.
Stephen K. Klasko is the president of Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of Jefferson Health. Barry R. Freedman is president and CEO of Einstein Healthcare Network.