April 02, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press Contact:
Clarissa O’Conor
717-203-4097

clarissaoconor@gmail.com
Philadelphia Healthcare Rights Committee, Put People First! PA

“Philly Can’t Wait! Re-open Hahnemann!” 

Community members, including healthcare workers, took action outside closed Hahnemann Hospital this morning to demand Mayor Kenney, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Philadelphia City Council seize and re-open the hospital, as COVID-19 cases top 1,000.

Normally bustling with commuters, North Broad Street was uncharacteristically quiet Thursday morning, as members of Put People First! PA (PPF-PA) gathered in front of the closed Hahnemann Hospital building, respecting the city’s ban on gatherings larger than ten people. Standing in two rows marked off by white crosses, each 8 feet apart, they demanded that Mayor Kenney, Philadelphia City Council, and Health Commissioner Farley immediately seize and reopen Hahnemann Hospital to care for COVID-19 patients. Protest participants carried signs that read “People Over Profit” and “Tell Joel Freedman: Stop Hoarding Hospitals.” 

As Philadelphia prepares for a surge of critically ill COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, protestors highlighted the urgency of their demand. “We do not have time to waste,” local doctor and PPF-PA member Karim Nathan declared, “Unlike Boston and New York, we lack a public safety net hospital in Philly. A shortage of beds like we have seen in New York will strain every healthcare worker in Philadelphia. It will worsen the crisis. And it will cost lives.”

In answer to the legal and financial questions about a hospital takeover, Nathan clarified, “The city should not have to line Joel Freedman’s pockets with public funds,” he continued into the megaphone, “Philadelphia doesn’t owe Freedman anything. Our leaders must use all means at their disposal. They have a duty to reclaim Hahnemann before it is too late.” 

Nathan’s calls for reopening Hahnemann, as well as for production of PPE for frontline workers, free testing and Medicaid expansion to cover all Pennsylvanians were interspersed by a call and response chant of “Forward Together, Not One Step Back” and cheers. Protestors ended by singing together a variation of a labor movement song, “Rich Man’s House.” 

For more information of Put People First! PA’s response to the crisis and demands visit: www.putpeoplefirstpa.org/coronavirus.

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PPF-PA Hahnemann Reopening Action Remarks
April 2, 2020

For recorded live stream of Hahnemann action, go to PPF-PA’s facebook page here.

Karim Nathan
Put People First! PA Member
www.putpeoplefirstpa.org

My name is Karim Nathan. I am a doctor and a member of Put People First! PA.
Put People First! PA is a working class, grassroots, base building organization
We have nine chapters across the state and members in 17 counties
We are organizing people across lines of division across PA
We believe healthcare is a human right
Join us at putpeoplefirstpa.org!

We are here because we demand the reopening of Hahnemann and all closed hospitals during this crisis. These hospitals must remain open after the crisis is over!
Forward together… (crowd says “not one step back”)
We demand the immediate production of personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers and frontline workers. Forward together…
We demand the immediate production of testing kits for all PA residents. Forward together…
We demand that all private hospitals be brought under public control for the duration of this crisis to ensure accountability to the public. Forward together…
We demand the expansion of Medicaid to cover every resident in PA.

Read our full list of COVID-19 demands at putpeoplefirstpa.org/coronavirus

Because healthcare is a human right, we demand the reopening of Hahnemann.
Because healthcare is a human right, It cannot be a commodity.
It cannot be bought and sold to the highest bidder, it does not belong in the marketplace.
We believe our right to healthcare is a basic human right that belongs to each and every person in this city, state, country, and world!

Forward together…

That right existed before COVID-19, it exists during COVID-19, and it will exist after COVID-19.
It means we have a right to medicine if we get sick. It means we have a right to a ventilator if we can’t breathe. And It means we have a right to a hospital bed if we require one.

Forward together…

This right belongs to every Philadelphian. It is inalienable. It is based on our common notions of human decency. It does not rest on the mercy of the marketplace, it does not depend on the whim of a Joel Freedman.

Forward together…

In 2019 Joel Freedman closed down this safety net hospital which has served the people of Philadelphia for 150 years. It was part of a pattern of hospitals closing across the state, and the country, not because they weren’t needed to serve the sick, but because they were not making enough money.

In 2019 our city allowed our right to healthcare to be violated by the closure of Hahnemann which thereby deprived so many people the cornerstone of their healthcare. The closing of Hahnemann added strain throughout the city by forcing its patients into the surrounding hospitals. It affected every single patient in Philadelphia by bringing about more crowded emergency rooms and hospital wards.

As a result we are more unready now than ever before for a surge in hospitalizations. Now we stand more unready than ever before. Within two months or less COVID-19 cases are set to spike in Philadelphia. One study has projected Philadelphia to have 2.5 times the number of cases as there are beds.

We do not have time to waste. Unlike Boston and New York, we lack a public safety net hospital in Philly. A shortage of beds like we have seen in New York will strain every healthcare worker in Philadelphia. It will worsen the crisis. And It will cost lives.

This pandemic has shown that betting on things to magically work out in this broken system is betting against peoples lives. We cannot be ready for the worst of this pandemic unless we equip ourselves now by reclaiming Hahnemann as a public asset. We cannot wait until we are overwhelmed with cases of COVID-19. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to marshal our resources in the midst of the crisis.

To Mayor Kenney, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, Philadelphia City Council, and Governor Wolf: you have a duty to act now to ensure that our right to healthcare and to safety are protected. Protected against profiteers like Joel Freedman, against a for-profit system that puts a dollar value on the lives of the people you are sworn to protect.

We call on the leaders of this city to do everything in their power to reopen Hahnemann. We call on you to reclaim this building in the name of this emergency that is clearly upon us, that no one can possibly deny. It is within your power to do this. You must do this.

The city should not have to line Joel Freedman’s pockets with public funds. Philadelphia doesn’t owe Joel Freedman anything. Our leaders must use every means at their disposal.. they have a duty to reclaim Hahnemann before it is too late.

Forward together…

While worried individuals are criticized for hoarding toilet paper, Joel Freedman is literally hording a hospital. He should not be allowed to blackmail and price gauge the people of Philly. If we or our loved ones get sick we deserve a real hospital bed, not a tent on a street or in a stadium.Not while we have a vacant hospital of 500 beds.

Because each and every bed in this building has the potential to nurture and to comfort and save the life of a friend, a neighbor, a family member. The life of a person in this city.

Just think to a time in your life when you may have had a loved one in the hospital. ask yourself, What value would you have placed on their hospital bed? How much was it worth to continue their treatment in a hospital instead of sending them out to a tent or a stadium or a convention center?

Forward together…

This pandemic has shone a blaring light on the moral bankruptcy of the status quo

It has revealed the depravity of a system which puts profits before people, which leaves the supply of ventilators, medicine, testing kits and protective equipment to the invisible hand of the marketplace.

We refuse to sacrifice our health and the health of our loved ones to that invisible hand. we will not sacrifice the health of our loved ones at the altar of profits, at the altar of capital, at the altar of private equity.

We must come together now as a city, in solidarity with each other, and demand that our leaders put the lives of the people of philadelphia above the profits of one man in california.

Because healthcare is a human right and we will come together across all lines of division to fight for it.

READING OF ENDORSERS
ACT UP Philadelphia
AIDS Resource
Anthracite Unite
Better Path Coalition
Coalition to Abolish Death by Incarceration (CADBI)
ELCA Deaconess community
Friends of Michelle Siegel – Michelle Siegel for PA Senate District 27
Harrisburg Democratic Socialists of America
Hearts on a Wire
Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up!
Janet Diaz for PA State Senate
Just Harvest
Lancaster County Homeless Union
MarchOnHarrisburg
Movement of Immigrant Leaders in PA (MILPA)
Movement Alliance Project
Partners for Dignity & Rights
Party for Socialism and Liberation – Lancaster
Party for Socialism and Liberation – Philly
Peace Action Network of Lancaster
Pittsburgh International Workers of the World
Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Rick Krajewski for 188th State Representative
Unity Coalition of the Southern Alleghenies

Once again we demand:

  • the immediate production of personal protective equipment for all healthcare workers and frontline workers. Forward together…
  • the immediate production of testing kits for all PA residents. Forward together…
  • that all private hospitals be brought under public control for the duration of this crisis to ensure accountability to the public. Forward together…
  • the expansion of Medicaid to cover every resident in PA. Forward together…
  • the reopening of Hahnemann and all closed hospitals during this crisis. These hospitals must remain open after the crisis is over!
  • Forward together… (crowd says “not one step back”)

Hahnemann is not just another building. it is part of our history, part of our city. For 150 years this hospital has been a place of hope for thousands upon thousands of Philadelphians. For 150 years a light has shined through these halls. In 2019 those lights were shut off. Now we demand they be turned back on for each and every person in Philadelphia… because healthcare is a human right.

Join us at putpeoplefirstpa.org

Request for Reflections: How the crisis affects you

The Media & Communications Team is looking for members to write reflections on the current pandemic crisis to post on the Put People First! PA website blog. We’re looking for personal stories on how you’re being affected and the organizing work you’re involved in with your HRCs/communities.

Share only what you’re comfortable with being public information and if your sharing about someone else as part of your reflection make sure they are ok with that. It doesn’t have to be long but if you could do a reflection of at least 2-3 paragraphs that would be great. Send reflections, picture of self (preferably in PPF-PA shirt 😉) and role within organization to Tammy at tammyrojas1977@gmail.com . Here are some reflection questions to help you write your reflection.

1.) Have you or someone you know been ill with symptoms of Covid-19 but was refused a test? What were the reasons given for refusing the test? What part of Pennsylvania did this happen and what was the name of the healthcare profiteer that refused the test?

2.) Have you or someone you know stopped being able to have access to needed healthcare services and or medications due to the pandemic? If so what is being denied and how does that affect the one being denied?

3.) What have you done in your locality to take action/make demands on the issues facing your community? Did you start a Facebook Covid-19 group? Did you do any actions? If so what kind of actions and what were the outcomes?

4.) What kind of roles do you have within Put People First! PA and how has this pandemic shifted your work and or role within the organization? Which recent gatherings and or actions have you taken part it on the state level with Put People First! PA and or the PA PPC? Describe your experience.

5.) How has this pandemic affected you personally on being able to meet your basic human needs? Are you out of work due to the pandemic? Are you able to keep up on your rent and or utilities past April? Has this pandemic affected you from accessing food or other necessities?

If you haven’t checked out PPF-PA’s demands (in English and Spanish) and signed our petition, head to www.putpeoplefirstpa.org/coronavirus!

Report from the Front lines on covid-19

Statewide

On March 27th at 10 am Put People First! PA held a virtual rally and demand delivery to Governor Wolf calling on the state to:

  • Immediately re-open closed hospitals such as Hahnemann in Philadelphia, UPMC Pinnacle in Lancaster (Formerly St. Joseph’s), and UMPC Susquehanna Sunbury and keep them open after the crisis
  • Immediate direct production of Personal Protective Equipment for all healthcare workers and frontline workers
  • Immediately direct production of testing kits for everyone in PA
  • Immediately apply for a federal waiver to expand Medicaid to cover ever resident of PA
  • Immediately bring all private hospitals and healthcare facilities under public control for the duration of the crisis

Dozens of members from Wilkes Barre to Philadelphia to State College to the Mon Valley and everywhere in between joined the rally to break our isolation, share stories and make our voices heard! Stay tuned for more virtual actions and events! To read our full list of demands, and sign on as an individual or organization, visit: www.putpeoplefirstpa.org/coronavirus

Lancaster:

The Lancaster HRC has been in the thick of the fight with battling the covid-19 pandemic. We have started a community Facebook discussion group to connect those in need to the needed resources available in the community and to share thoughts, concerns and political discussions and actions. We were able to get meals to those in need by partnering with Lancaster Food Not Bombs & Lancaster County Homeless Union on Saturday at Binns Park to share food, inform the unhoused on what is going on with the virus, resources they can utilize and how they can get join the movement. We also listened to their stories and connected with them on a deep level. We saw the pain and fear these beautiful people have. We are continuing to connect with the community through digital base building organizing. Many wonderful people are coming our way. They are beginning to see why we have fought so hard for the old St. Joe’s hospital. They are becoming aware of the pitfalls of a system that puts money over people. It is time for us all to stand together. —Matthew, CoCoordinator Lancaster HRC

Philadelphia:

As the pandemic has pushed many of Philadelphia’s residents indoors, members of our HRC are hard at work building a political center of gravity in our region. A big part of our work has involved connecting with our contacts in the region and making sure we are collectively able to meet our needs, and providing contacts with information about the virus and opportunities to connect to our organization. Our base is outraged at the response of the powers-that-be to this coronavirus crisis, and people are fired up about fighting back!

Thursday, members of the HRC are taking action at Hahnemann Hospital in order to expose the profiteering healthcare system that is set up to allow the ruling class to hold a hospital for ransom. We are calling on the Mayor and Governor to take extraordinary measures and seize Hahnemann from Joel Freedman–the real estate developer who bought the hospital to shut it down and flip it for a profit–and operate it as a public hospital immediately. In this time, when so many communities across the state are losing hospitals because of the greed of real estate tycoons and huge corporations, we are raising our voices to say that no one should be able to hoard a hospital, especially not when our city’s healthcare system is overwhelmed.
— Iaan and Jae, Co-Coordinators, Philly HRC