“Call to Action! Stop the UPMC Rezoning Petition” 

Lancaster City Planning Commission Meeting Action: December 18, 2019

Wednesday December 18, 2019 marked the one year anniversary of when our fight to “Save St. Joseph’s Hospital” began and we once again found ourselves in City Hall in battle with UPMC to save the legacy of St. Joseph’s Hospital! Members of the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee along with other residents of Lancaster joined together to take a stand against the rezoning petition being proposed by UPMC to rezone the old St Joseph’s Hospital from a hospital complex zone to a multi use property of businesses and housing, which would further gentrify our community and continuing the displacement of the poor and dispossessed.

This action was a very symbolic, poetic, and spiritual action of togetherness. We once again found ourselves up against UPMC and this time representatives of UPMC were present and they found themselves having to listen to ridicule from the community over their actions against the people of Lancaster, PA for the first time. UPMC neglected to realize what this fight means to us, not only are we fighting because we are losing a much needed healthcare facility, we are fighting for the legacy of St. Joseph’s Hospital, a hospital with a rich history of over 135 years that meant so much to the community personally. 

We knew going into the meeting we would have the opportunity to speak up about the actions of UPMC, what we didn’t know is that representatives of Penn Medicine would be present as well. Penn Medicine was there to request part of of what’s needed for their expansion plan for the location of Lancaster General Hospital, the only hospital left within Lancaster City limits. So we used this opportunity to question Penn Medicine about the expansion and brought to light that their expansion plan was based on the need to expand the emergency room department prior to the impact received from the hospital UPMC chose to close. Penn Medicine representatives went on to comment that the space is limited and they can only expand so much, leaving us to wonder what does this mean for the future of our community without another hospital within city limits. This interaction was a great segway into UPMC presenting their plan to rezone the old St. Joseph’s Hospital. 

(video link to interaction with Penn Medicine https://youtu.be/kgOpyCFvhAM)

Eric, someone new the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee has connected with shared with everyone present his concerns about gentrification and what he witnessed take place while he was living in New York prior to returning to Lancaster, PA. He remarked on the comment UPMC stated about there being a couple of potential buyers of the property already and highlighted why UPMC is itching to rezone so they can make a real estate deal that will make them a huge profit. Clearly UPMC could care less about what the community of Lancaster, PA needs making it clear we MUST fight back against this atrocity! (Link to video of Eric’s remarks here https://youtu.be/hMJgTp9dG4I)

We are at a pivotal moment right now, this is an important historical moment for our community and we need to do this right. The history of St. Joseph’s hospital is remarkable and it’s legacy needs to be honored. Let’s come together and organize as a community and save the legacy of St. Joseph’s hospital together! We are continuing to lose what makes Lancaster, Lancaster. It’s time to come together and push back! We are not alone in this fight UPMC has devastated many other communities across Pennsylvania and the people are done with the tactics of UPMC. We recently connected with people from Sunbury, PA who are currently facing a hospital closure by the hands of UPMC. Tammy from the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee made it a point to highlight what UPMC is doing in Sunbury and that their tactics our causing so much harm across Pennsylvania that people are itching to take on UPMC STATEWIDE! To do so would only strengthen all of our fights against them! (Link to video of Tammy’s remarks https://youtu.be/L4x06NBysXQ)

Others from the community spoke out and highlighted many reasons why the Lancaster City Planning Commission should hear our concerns and postpone rezoning the property which sits the old St. Joseph’s hospital. Stating the only reason to rush the decision would benefit UPMC so they could make a huge profit off of a real estate deal. Ann shared how the community of Lancaster built St. Joseph’s Hospital with our blood, sweat and tears. (Video link to her remarks here https://youtu.be/nTVEogg2BKs) Zak, a leader with Lancaster Stands Up asked questions which brought to light the old St. Joseph’s Hospital could wind up becoming a mini version of 101NQ. (Video Link to his remarks here https://youtu.be/YcpWjfP4sJ0) Nick, a leader with Party for Socialism and Liberation emphasized the importance of what everyone had stated and

reiterated what Penn Medicine had stated about being overburdened by the closure of the old St. Joseph’s hospital by UPMC. (Video Link of his remarks here https://youtu.be/4p4zS9vObrI)

We can NOT allow the old St. Joseph’s Hospital to become luxury condos/housing and shops! We can get what we need WITHOUT rezoning that property. We have a vision that incorporates housing and healthcare for our most vulnerable residents and it’s the best way to honor the legacy of St. Joseph’s Hospital! 

We are relieved that The Lancaster City Planning Commision decided to postpone the vote on whether or not to recommend the petition to rezone being proposed by UPMC until January 15th 2020 per our request. After a year of organizing and fighting against UPMC we finally got a win! Our fight is not over, we will go back to the City Planning Commission to continue to plead our case for them to not recommend the UPMC rezoning petition. Whether the planning commission decides on the 15th to vote in favor of the rezoning petition or not the petition will move onto to Lancaster City Council for a vote thus leaving the legacy of St. Joseph’s hospital in the hands of the Lancaster City Administration. 

Throughout 2019 the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee has shared with City Council and the Mayor of Lancaster the dehumanizing tactics being used by UPMC, the partnership brewing between them and  Amazon and how we should be concerned about this. With Amazon and UPMC partnership now becoming public this should make everyone in Lancaster, PA worried about what’s to come. With the suspicious sale of the property across the street from St. Joseph’s hospital, which UPMC leases out of and the desperate push UPMC is making to get the old St. Joseph’s Hospital rezoned we should all be cautious of their intentions and fight back against it! 

The most remarkable part of this action and what’s ahead for us, is the connection we made with those in the community. We are finally getting others in the community from other organizations who are willing to come on board and join us in our fight against UPMC. It took us, the Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee and many others from Put People First! PA organizing and being active in the community, pushing back and sticking to our messaging, it took us, the poor and dispossessed telling our stories to sway the narrative of poverty by showing up, consistently, and speaking our truths and speaking truth to power in order to motivate others in the community to see the value and possibilities of what could happen when you fight back TOGETHER! This fight to “Take Back St. Joseph’s” is a prime example of what can be made possible by a movement led by the poor and dispossessed. 

Media coverage: 

LNP Article: December 19, 2019


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