PHILADELPHIA – Gov. Ed Rendell and the for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corp. reached an agreement Feb. 20 to keep Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP) Hospital open until June 30, while a buyer is being sought. Temple University Health System, Albert Einstein Health System and Drexel University Medical School have shown interest in the hospital.

In December 2003, just as Tenet had reached an agreement with its striking nurses, it announced that it would close MCP Hospital on March 31. The announcement prompted community anger and public hearings. MCP Hospital employees, elected officials and community groups formed the Association to Save MCP Hospital coalition, while neighbors formed the Residents Coalition. The two groups have held meetings, rallies and candlelight vigils to save the 154-year-old hospital, the first to train women to become physicians.

The Save MCP Coalition filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the closing. After the Pennsylvania Department of Health said Tenet must give 90 days’ notice after a court ruling, Tenet began negotiations with the governor.

Coalition leaders, Ralph Wynder, a ward leader and community activist, and Ginny Holzworth, a registered nurse at MCP, said the coalition wants to be part of the negotiations in the sale/purchase of MCP Hospital.

“The interests of those served by the hospital and those who work here must be considered,” said Wynder. Holzworth added, “Tenet has transferred MCP staff and equipment to some of its other five hospitals in Philadelphia. Ambulances have been diverted to other hospitals, causing the loss of at least one life. This must stop.”

Meanwhile Tenet is facing severe financial problems stemming from its mismanagement and poor quality control.

Tenet Shareholder Committee Chairman M. Lee Pearce said, “We warned the board against the practice of ‘Wall Street medicine.’ We said, as forcefully as possible, that at Tenet quality health care takes a backseat to the almighty dollar. Unfortunately, senior management and the board either ignored us or attacked us or both.”

MCP Hospital’s emergency room served 27,500 patients in 2002. It also cared for an additional 10,000 patients during the year. Were it to close, hundreds of employees, particularly blue-collar workers, would have difficulty finding employment.

Twelve hospitals in the Philadelphia area have closed since 1994.

Dr. Walter Tsou, former city health commissioner and a representative of the Philadelphia Area Committee to Defend Health Care, testified at the city council hearings about the exploding uninsured population. Tsou said, “MCP Hospital is the latest victim of a health care system out of control.”

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