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April 14, 2020

Bernie Sanders campaign uses text messages to circulate Hahnemann Hospital petition nationwide

The former presidential candidate supports City Councilmember Helen Gym's push to reopen the health care facility amid the coronavirus pandemic

Sen. Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, but he's using the power of his campaign to draw attention the situation in Philadelphia and the vacant Hahnemann University Hospital.

During the earlier weeks of the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Jim Kenney and other Philadelphia officials attempted to negotiate to reopen the Center City hospital to boost the city's hospital capacity, but by March 26, those talks broke down. The city blamed Hahnemann's owner, Josh Freedman, saying the rent he wanted to charge was too high, and coupled with costs required to make the hospital operational again, the city would be paying nearly $1 million per month.

City Councilmember Helen Gym started a petition over the weekend to increase the pressure on Freedman to negotiate an affordable deal for the city to use Hahnemann for potential COVID-19 patients. Since the petition's launch, the Sanders campaign has sent text messages nationwide to supports, calling attention to the battle for Philly's hospital, Billy Penn first reported Monday.

Gym's petition continues the push to reopen the hospital creating additional beds that may be needed to handle the growing number of coronavirus cases in Philly. The petition describes Freedman as the "Los Angeles multimillionaire ... who bankrupted Hahnemann Hospital last summer"

"Joel Freedman is trying to gouge the City of Philadelphia for millions in profit while we are in desperate need for beds and treatment centers for people in need of dire medical care," Gym wrote. 

Messaging taken up by the Sanders' campaign includes similar phrasing in its texts, which were also followed by a link to the petition.

"L.A. millionaire and private equity investor Joel Freedman bankrupted Hahnemann Hospital last summer, closing down an historic safety net hospital," the text messages say, according to Billy Penn. 

On Monday, Sanders endorsed former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, for president. Sanders' supporters have also been tweeting about the new direction of his campaign text messaging, even though the official push for Sanders' candidacy has ended. 

While the Sanders text campaign shows support for Gym's local battle, it i not the first time the Vermont senator has shown interest in the issue of Hahnemann hospital. In 2019, he held a rally to draw attention to his "Medicare For All" plan in protest Hahnemann's closure.

Philadelphia became the largest city in America without a public hospital when Hahnemann closed its doors last year. The hospital's owners, Philadelphia Academic Health System, declared bankruptcy in September 2019.

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