By Ally Margolis
Ally Margolis is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Political Science.
While Philadelphia is reeling from the coronavirus, we have seen both the best and the worst of humanity. Unfortunately, amidst this pandemic, the owner of Hahnemann Hospital refuses to be a team player as city officials try to expand resources to handle the unprecedented surges in hospital visits . When Philly officials inquired about Hahnemann, a closed hospital with room for 500 beds, the building’s owner, Joel Freedman, proposed the city pay one million dollars a month to rent the space . Mayor Jim Kenney characterized this offer as coming from a “multi-millionaire who wanted to maximize his profits,” and argued that a man “with great means” should help during this “terrible crisis” . The city has moved on from Freedman’s offer and was aided by Temple University without charge. However, some Philadelphia residents and politicians are not letting Freedman off so easily.
Freedman’s home was vandalized with the words “Joel Kills” and “Free Hahnemann” written in spray paint . A representative for Freedman, Sam Singer, criticized the vandalism and argued that it was “time to come together and work collectively for the best of the community” . This statement appears hypocritical due to both recent events and the historical relationship between Freedman and the Philly community: Hahnemann’s closing in fall of 2019 caused unemployment of healthcare professionals, not to mention limiting Philadelphians’ access to healthcare . We now see the disastrous impacts of unequal access to healthcare during COVID-19, with black Americans contracting and dying of the virus at a higher rate than their white counterparts . One of the reasons for this inequity is because of lack of equal access to healthcare. Philadelphia becoming the largest city in America without a public hospital surely did not help these statistics . The prospect of closing the hospital only becomes more ridiculous when bearing in mind that Freedman’s intention is to make luxury condos out of the property . The community surrounding Hahnemann has historically, and continues to, suffer from gentrification.
Local and national politicians have recognized these issues. City Council Member Helen Gym has been at the forefront of efforts to keep Hahnemann open and now to reopen the property during COVID-19. Gym has argued that it is “obscene” to have a hospital sit empty right now and thinks the city should take the property through eminent domain . However, this would likely cause the city to put out just as much financially . Mayor Kenney has argued exercising eminent domain is not worth it since the hospital is currently in disrepair and would need modifications to make it workable . However, Temple University’s Liacouras Center, a stadium previously used for sports and cultural events, has been made into an emergency hospital for 250 people, at no cost to the city .
Gym has not given up. She has enlisted the help of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who had held a presidential campaign rally outside of Hahnemann. Sanders recently sent out the councilwoman’s petition to open the closed hospital to supporters from his now-concluded campaign . The issue is not just about Joel Freedman, but the new prevalence of private equity firms investing into the hospital industry in especially vulnerable areas . These investors take advantage of hospitals which are already suffering, rarely maintain the hospitals for their original use, and put those who are most in danger at an even higher risk.
Coronavirus is not the great equalizer like some in the media and politics have claimed. If anything, this pandemic has exacerbated and brought attention to the existing inequalities in our country. I hope attention won’t wain when a vaccine becomes available, as the inequalities will still remain. But for now, those of us who are not essential workers or suffering from unemployment should be doing everything in our power to help those who are.
 McCarthy, Erin. “Hahnemann owner’s home vandalized after city balks at $1M offer to use hospital for coronavirus patients” (30 March 2020). The Philadelphia Inquirer. “https://www.inquirer.com/health/coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-hahnemann-joel-freedman-philadelphia-graffiti-20200330.html
 Gandel, Stephen. “Joel Freedman, owner of empty Philadelphia hospital wants millions to reopen for COVID-19” (2 April 2020). CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/joel-freedman-philadelphia-hahnemann-university-hospital-covid-19-coronavirus/
Garcia-Navarro, Lulu. “Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney On the City’s Coronavirus Response” (29 March 2020). NPR. https://www.npr.org/2020/03/29/823438948/philadelphia-mayor-jim-kenney-on-the-citys-coronavirus-response
 “COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups” (22 April 2020). CDC.
 Miller, Allie. “Bernie Sanders campaign uses text messages to circulate Hahnemann Hospital petition nationwide”(14 April 2020). Philly Voice. https://www.phillyvoice.com/bernie-sanders-hahnemann-hospital-coronavirus-philadelphia-helen-gym-petition/
 Laura McCrystal and Jacob Adelmann. “Can Philly use eminent domain to take over Hahnemann hospital for coronavirus patients?” (26 March 2020). The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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