The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, February 21, 2004  

Suddenly Temple is Interested, as is Albert Einstein

Back in December I took to blogging about Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s proposed closure of the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital, located in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, Tenet’s roughshod (to say the least) treatment of striking nurses there, and its complete and utter disregard for the hospital’s entire staff and the community the facility purports to serve.

Well, MCP is back in the news this week (“Temple Health System Mulling MCP Buy,” by Michael Hinkelman, Philadelphia Daily News, February 20):

Temple University Health System is in “meaningful” discussions with Gov. [Ed] Rendell’s office about possibly acquiring the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital from Tenet Healthcare Corp., a Temple spokesman said yesterday.

The discussions have been going on for about a month and include Temple Healthcare’s senior management, said spokesman Andy Smith. […]

Sources said at least one other Philadelphia-based health-care system has expressed interest in MCP. But Susan Anderson, deputy director of Rendell’s Office of Health Care Reform, would not identify any other potential suitors.

Meanwhile, Anderson and Tenet continued to negotiate on a deal that would keep MCP open beyond its scheduled closing date, March 31, in hopes of giving Tenet time to find a buyer.

“I have every reason to believe we have enough of an agreement that we’re extraordinarily close, and we’ll have something to announce [this] morning,” Anderson said.

Said Margaret Shiver, a spokeswoman for Tenet, “These things just take time, but we’re very close and quite confident everything is going to be worked out.” […]

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Matthew D. Carrafiello yesterday postponed until Monday further action on a lawsuit that seeks to stop the closure of MCP.

Now, wait a second. Last we heard, Tenet was telling everyone and anyone -- its staff, its patients, lawmakers, community leaders, shareholders -- that it just couldn’t find a buyer for MCP, and, as a result, there was no other option available to the company but to close the hospital by March 31.

Hmm. Looks like somebody -- Tenet -- didn’t try very hard, considering the potential buyer, Temple University Health System, is just down the road.

Ah, but there’s more. In today’s Daily News Hinkelman reports (“Deal Delays Closing of MCP Hospital,”):

Gov. Rendell and Tenet Healthcare agreed yesterday to keep the Medical College of Pennsylvania Hospital in East Falls open until June 30 -- in hopes of finding a buyer.

And Hinkelman today reveals the second potential buyer: Albert Einstein Healthcare Network.

Moreover, the Daily News reports:

The Temple University Health System has been talking with the governor’s Office of Health Care Reform about MCP for a month, and has submitted a “wonderful” proposal, said Susan Anderson, the office's deputy director and Rendell’s point person in the negotiations.

Tenet has also been negotiating separately with several other health-care entities, Anderson said. “The plan is for Tenet and the state to sit down with the various proposals and all the parties and see what we can work out,” she said. [Emphasis added.]

Call me cynical, but does this not smell funny to anyone else but me?

Someone -- Tenet -- is playing games here. No surprise, that, given the current “free market” business climate in Philadelphia. To cite just one example, we have Comcast Corp. holding out its hand out for more than $100 million in city and state subsidies for a building, still in the development stage, that might become its new headquarters in Center City. Who could blame Tenet for gaming the system to its best advantage?

What’s worse is that it’s not entirely clear the politicians involved in the talks over MCP think anything of this -- or even have thought about it at all.

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