COUNCILMEMBER THOMAS’ TRANSPARENCY IN HEALTHCARE BILL PASSES UNANIMOUSLY

In Council News, Isaiah Thomas, News by PHL Council

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Bill requires transparent information when a healthcare facility is bought and sold

Philadelphia, PA. — City Council has passed Councilmember Isaiah Thomas’ (At Large) bill which increases transparency when hospitals and long-term care facilities are sold in Philadelphia. The pandemic has highlighted the consequences of not understanding what happens in the sale and purchase of healthcare facilities; these unknown factors have ramifications on workers, patients and their families. Councilmember Thomas has worked with SEIU Healthcare, 1199C, PASNAP and Community Legal Services to best understand and address the issue of lack of transparency in healthcare facilities. Advocates found that the state regulation and information disclosed during the sale of healthcare facilities has been too limited. In recent instances such as the sales of Hahnemann Hospital, Somerton Senior Center, Powerback Rehabilitation Center and more, better transparency would equate to better care for patients and safer facilities for healthcare workers.

“The sale and purchase of a healthcare facility may happen for a number of reasons. The workers, patients and their families have a right to know who is involved,” said Councilmember Isaiah Thomas. “My Transparency in Healthcare Bill requires reporting and increased transparency in the event of such a sale. How can a nurse or patient feel safe and cared for if they don’t know who is taking care of them?”

The Transparency in Healthcare Bill requires new reporting in the event of the sale of a long-term care facility or hospital. The names of all parties (direct and indirect owners) involved in the transaction must be disclosed and, after internal review, must be made public. When the sale is in progress, both parties must disclose additional information including finances and operator of facilities and, after internal review, must be made public. Workers will have protection from being fired without cause for the 90 days following the sale.

Philadelphia saw the effect of not having this legislation in place with the recent sale of Hahnemann Hospital. It was not until after the hospital was purchased that workers and patients saw the uncertainty of the future of the eventually closed hospital. While Hahnemann’s fate was publicly in question, workers worried about their wages, insurance coverage and employment while patients worried about their quality and future of care.

While Hahnemann’s closure was seen on the national stage, these closures and changes in ownership happen very regularly and without the spotlight. Most recently, Powerback Rehabilitation was sold to a new owner. Workers at these facilities are committed to providing the best possible care to residents, regardless of ownership. But for these workers, these facilities are their employers and a change in ownership often means a sudden change in wages, insurance coverage or even employment itself.

“You can’t call us heroes and then treat us with such disrespect,” said Terry Thomas, CNA and union chapter President at Powerback Rehabilitation Center. “Under new ownership, my monthly prescription skyrocketed to $300 more expensive per month. As I was trying to figure out how to come up with this extra money, I found out my insurance was cancelled all together and nothing was put in place to move caregivers onto a new plan. That is outrageous and unacceptable. If the Transparency in Healthcare Bill had been law, we would have known who we were working with and may have made different decisions or planned differently.”

Cosponsors on the Transparency in Healthcare Bill includes City Councilmembers Gym, Henon, Gilmore Richardson and O’Neill. This Bill passed 17-0 at City Council’s May 27th session.

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Photo: Joe Piette, used under Creative Commons license.

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