It’s been less than a month since Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, the primary teaching hospital for Drexel University College of Medicine, announced that it will close in September. (A judge this week ordered the hospital to remain open while final bankruptcy and closure plans are approved.) The hospital was acquired by for-profit firm American Academic Health System (AAHS) from Tenet Healthcare Corp. just last year. AAHS cited untenable and irreversible financial losses as the reason for closure.
Hahnemann’s shuttering not only deprives the city of a 150-year old institution providing a large portion of its healthcare safety net, but also displaces 570 resident physicians, many of whom just arrived to begin training. The Philadelphia Inquirer eloquently captured the personal stories behind and implications of the closure. Many industry experts, including us, have questioned whether the country may be better served by fewer, larger teaching and research centers. With four medical schools, Philadelphia is a market where there may be too many academic medical centers, each operating at suboptimal scale.
But the Hahnemann saga illustrates the myriad difficulties of actually closing a financially-strained teaching hospital: challenges of for-profit “turnaround” management and performance goals, disruption for hundreds of trainees, and impact on access for the neediest patients. Getting to the right academic training and care delivery model for a region won’t come from reactive responses to abrupt closures, but will require community, government, academic and hospital leaders across organizations to collaborate on a long-term plan aimed at delivering greater value, scale and productivity.