coronavirus

Philadelphia Hospital Owner Faces Backlash After Requesting $1M a Month to Open Facility

Vandals targeted the Center City home of the owner of Hahnemann Hospital while Senator Bernie Sanders criticized him on social media after talks with Philly to reopen the shuttered building as a site for quarantined COVID-19 patients fell through

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What to Know

  • Vandals targeted the home of Hahnemann Hospital owner Joel Freedman.
  • Freedman has faced criticism from many, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, after negotiations between him and Philadelphia to reopen Hahnemann for COVID-19 patients fell through.
  • Philly leaders accused Freedman of charging too much and being "difficult to work with" during negotiations.

The owner of Philadelphia's shuttered Hahnemann Hospital is facing backlash from vandals as well as presidential candidate Bernie Sanders after talks with the city to reopen the building for COVID-19 patients fell through. 

The nearly 500-bed hospital, located on North Broad and Vine streets, closed last year due to financial difficulties. Yet with a need for space and beds on the rise amid the coronavirus pandemic, Philadelphia leaders reached out to Hahnemann owner Joel Freedman to reopen its doors. 

The vacant hospital's owner wanted the city to lease the building at a cost per bed per night that would have come to about $1 million a month. Mayor Jim Kenney and Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the cost was too much for the city to afford. After about a week's worth of negotiations, they lost their patience with Freedman’s demands and announced last Thursday that the deal was off the table. 

“In the midst of a public health crisis, with the numbers of positive cases increasing daily, we simply do not have the time to continue in a lengthy negotiation," Kenney said. 

Earlier last week, Abernathy said Freedman did not seem to be negotiating with the national crisis in mind.

"He is looking at this as a business transaction rather than providing an imminent and important need for our city and our residents," Abernathy said. "The owner, Mr. Freedman, was difficult to work with at times when he was the owner of the hospital, and he is still difficult to work with as the owner of the shuttered hospital.”

On Monday, Sen. Sanders, I-Vt., criticized Freedman while responding to Philly councilwoman Helen Gym’s tweet about Hahnemann. 

Overnight, a vandal targeted Freedman’s Center City home, spray-painting the message “Joel Kills” on one side and “Free Hahnemann” on the other. 

“This is a sad and uncalled for act of vandalism,” Freedman’s spokesman, Sam Singer, said Monday. “Mr. Freedman responded quickly to the City of Philadelphia, offered to lease or sell Hahnemann Hospital at a nominal cost, and was rebuffed by the City.”

“We will stand ready to discuss should the city or state wish to resume discussions.”

Singer told NBC10 on Monday that they offered the city to lease the hospital for $27 per bed per day. That would be a fraction of the $70 per night total cost that he initially said Freedman offered the city. Singer clarified on Tuesday that the difference is in the baseline rent that Freedman is asking for ($27 per room per night) and the associated property taxes and utilities that the city would have to pay to operate the hospital.

"It would be a 'triple net lease,' meaning the city would pay for the associated costs," Singer said. "The $27 would be the actual rent. The only rent that Mr. Freedman, that Mr. Freedman’s company, would receive is the $27 per bed per night."

Kenney and Abernathy said they are still working on numerous other options to house COVID-19 patients. At least nine people have died of the novel coronavirus in Philadelphia as the number of infections climbed to at least 1,072 Monday.

No arrests have been made in the vandalism at Freedman’s home.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

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