PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia city officials are working to hammer out a deal to possibly reopen the shuttered Hahnemann Hospital, which closed over the summer due to bankruptcy. Officials believe the hospital can help with the COVID-19 outbreak if a deal can be reached.
The city is currently in talks with the owner of Hahnemann. City leaders are hoping to turn the vacant hospital into a possible site for coronavirus patients, but so far, nothing is set in stone.
City leaders would not address just how much Hahnemann owner Joel Freedman wants Philadelphia to shovel out for his hospital but city Managing Director Brian Abernathy said “selling the property for what he considers fair market value is well outside of our ability to pay.”
Councilmember at Large Helen Gym is calling for the city to use “all means possible” to secure the shuttered Hahnemann Hospital building as a treatment center. City leaders say they tried negotiating with the owner of the old Hahnemann building as a quarantine site, but the price to rent it was just too expensive.
“We are the largest city in the nation without a public hospital. We cannot be the only city in the nation that has a centrally-located hospital that sits empty and vacant in the middle of a crisis,” Gym said.
If the owner won’t be reasonable, Gym wants city leaders to use eminent domain to acquire the vacant building as a COVID-19 treatment center. She says greed should not get in the way of potentially saving lives.
“This is more than just about money. This is about two months of putting a vacant hospital to use — to good use — to save people’s lives,” Gym said.
Freedman released a statement Tuesday night.
“We are working with the City of Philadelphia to provide a major quarantine center to cope with community members affected by the COVID-19 virus. We will continue to work with the City in an attempt to find a reasonable solution,” Freedman said.
Freedman added the ball is in the city’s court to tell him what it needs and is willing to do. He said he offered to lease the building at substantially below market cost.
“Our team immediately responded to the City’s interest in the Hahnemann and has been engaged in discussions with them for several days. Further, we have continually asked the City to make us an offer for the facility. We asked the City whether they desired to buy or lease the hospital, and after days of waiting for a reply, we took the initiative and submitted a term sheet. We offered to lease the facility to the city for six months or a year, whatever they think is necessary. We need the City to work with us for everyone to be successful. I believe everyone has the right purpose at heart. The ball is in the City’s court to tell us what it needs and is willing to do,” Freedman said.
CBS3 asked a spokesperson with the city if eminent domain was a realistic option the city could take. The spokesperson says they remain focused on negotiating with the owner and are exploring a variety of legal options.
Meanwhile, the city is setting up a quarantine site at the Holiday Inn Express at 13th and Walnut Streets for homeless people who tested positive.
“We’ll also be bringing in third-party social services for wrap-around services,” Abernathy said.
Those who need to be quarantined but can’t in their own home will be quarantined at the Holiday Inn as well.
The city is considering setting up quarantine sites at other hotels or old college dorms, too.
“We are looking at a number of sites throughout the city,” Abernathy said.
There is no word yet when the quarantine site will open at the hotel.
State leaders are also looking to transform buildings like hotels in other communities into quarantine sites as well.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo and Kimberly Davis contributed to this report.