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Although Hahnemann University Hospital is empty, the City of Philadelphia cannot afford the almost $1 million monthly cost to buy or lease it. (Photo by Scott McLeod | CC BY 2.0)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced Thursday that a local hospital with room for nearly 500 beds will remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the steep cost that the owner is demanding.

Hahnemann University Hospital, located in Center City, closed in September 2019 when owner Joel Freedman requested $1 million a month for rent. While the hospital is empty and in a central location, Kenney said that the city could not afford the owner’s offer to either buy the hospital or lease it for almost $1 million monthly.

“We don’t have the need to own it nor the resources to buy it. So we are done and we are moving on,” Kenney said during the city’s daily coronavirus press briefing.

Freedman, who owns real estate company Broad Street Healthcare Properties, said that he offered the city a reasonable deal that was "below market value," according to The Philadelphia Business Journal. Sam Singer, a spokesman for Freedman, spoke to The New York Times about the failed deal with Philadelphia.

“Mr. Freedman not only desired to be helpful to the city of Philadelphia and its leaders, but he was very reasonable,” Singer said. “We’re disappointed that they didn’t accept what we offered, but we stand ready to be helpful to the city or the state if they want to reopen discussions.”

City officials don’t see it the same way. On Tuesday, the city’s managing director, Brian Abernathy, told reporters he thought Freedman’s requests were “unreasonable.” 

“I think he is looking at how to turn an asset that is earning no revenue into an asset that earns some revenue, and isn’t actually particularly thinking through what the impacts are on public health,” Abernathy said. “I think he’s looking at this as a business transaction rather than providing an imminent and important aid to the city and our residents.”

The news provoked a bitter response from both city officials and Philadelphians. City Councilmember Helen Gym took to Twitter on Thursday to express her anger. 

“We can't allow unconscionable greed to get in the way of saving lives,” Gym wrote.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 30 that Freedman’s house had been vandalized with “Joel Kills” and “Free Hahnemann” painted on the side of his building. Fliers were also found on a door that read: “Joel Freedman has blood on his hands” and “Open Hahnemann Hospital.”

Hahnemann Hospital closed because it was losing millions of dollars a month, the Times reported. Before its closure, the hospital served some of the city's poorest inhabitants. 

Kenney announced on March 27 that Philadelphia was able to strike a deal with Temple University in which the city will use The Liacouras Center, a Temple concert and sports venue, for hospital space. The facility will be able to provide more than 250 beds, and the city does not have to pay Temple for the use of its building.

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