Hahnemann University Hospital may have officially closed its doors on Sept. 6, but the impact is already apparent.
On Sept. 17, Put People First! PA held a demonstration that began outside of Colliers Real Estate on 18th and Market Sts. and ended outside the headquarters of Independence Blue Cross.
Protesters gathered to call out Colliers for profiting off the closure of Hahnemann, as well as to stand for action against underprivileged people being denied healthcare by IBX. Put People First! PA united members of the PA Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PA PPC: NCMR) and ACT UP Philadelphia who, along with Drexel University medical students, all gathered outside the Colliers building.
PPF is a statewide human rights organization, and ACT UP is a group with the mission of ending the AIDS crisis. Demonstrators held signs high and passed out literature to anyone willing to listen. PPF members Jae Hubay and Nijmie Dzurinko were the first to grab the megaphone and give introductory remarks. They passionately shared the reasons why they were there to condemn profiteering in the healthcare system.
Clarissa O’Conor, a third-year medical student at Drexel, shared how the Hahnemann closure has displaced plenty of students and faculty. She noted being a member of PPF before going to medical school. O’Conor believes that doctors should be recognized as members of the working class, especially considering how affected they are by hospital closures like this.
“The fact that [medical] residents and doctors don’t have a union is really concerning,” she said. “It was scary to see how little power they really have.”
Several speakers followed and shared what the cause personally means to them. Some discussed loved ones that were lost due to negligence in both their healthcare and insurance coverage.
All demonstrators were then invited to the microphone to share names and photos of those they’ve lost, followed by a moment of silence to honor those loved ones. The group got ramped up once again with a collective chant before they marched down Market St. with Hubay and Dzurinko leading a funeral procession down one of the busiest streets in the city.
They each stepped slowly in sync to the tune of a somber performance of the Odetta song “Motherless Child” played by PPF member Jason Butterly. Despite the rush hour crowd racing through the street, the walk went peacefully.
Mock pallbearers gently set the coffin down in front of a small stage outside the IBX building. The crowd gathered in a circle once again to listen to remarks of PA PPC members. Jamaal Henderson of ACT UP discussed his negative experiences with receiving improper health coverage. He is a father of six who has been through several serious illnesses and near-death experiences.
Marie Fitzpatrick of the grassroots organization Every Mother is a Working Mother followed with some remarks. The microphone was then opened for anyone in the crowd to share remarks or names once again of loved ones who died.
This demonstration featured several voices that added magnitude and reality to the consequences of the closure of Hahnemann. It was a strong call to action for healthcare professionals to do what they are paid to do — care.
The PA PPC isn’t done spreading their loud and clear message. They organized another demonstration in Johnstown, Pa on Sept. 19 in support of proper coverage of Medicaid patients. PPF has also been fighting the closure of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Lancaster, O’Conor said. After this hospital shut down, the entire town had been left with only one operating hospital and emergency room.
“It’s really powerful and important to be able to connect everything that’s happening across the state,” she said.