The Rittenhouse Review

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

Thursday, March 10, 2005  

Shuts Down

It's (not so suddenly) all over for the 150-year-old Woman's Medical Hopsital, located in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Daily News today reports ( "Women's [sic] Medical Closing," by Joseph H. Daughen):

Women's [sic] Medical Hospital, the first institution in the world created to train females as physicians, is shutting down after a long, and losing, struggle to stay afloat financially.

Where once it had more than 1,000 workers tending to the needs of 365 patients, at the end the hospital had fewer than 500 employees, only 38 patients, and was losing millions.

Did anyone running the hospital, or any reporters covering this story, ever perform the simple staff-patient ratio calculations begged by the latter paragraph quoted above?

Okay, I'll do it, though they said there would be no math:

1,000 employees / 365 patients = 2.7 employees per patient.

500 employees / 38 patients = 13.2 employees per patient.

Now, I'm not a healthcare economist, but clearly something was out of whack here: either too large a staff or too small a patient base, the latter due, one would assume, from inadequate marketing or, dare I suggest it, pitiable marketing of the hospital, despite its location in a section of Philadelphia badly in need of emergency- and acute-care services, on behalf of its owner Tenet Healthcare Corp., which already has deleted the facility from the list of healthcare centers the company operates in Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, today's Philadelphia Inquirer reports ( "Historic East Falls hospital to close," by Josh Goldstein):

Woman's Medical will be the 14th hospital in the Philadelphia region to close since 1994. Its demise slams the door -- at least for now -- on an institution that had a 150-year history as a training ground for women doctors who attended the medical school once based there.

The hospital traces its roots to the formation of Female Medical College 155 years ago by Quakers as the nation's first medical school for women. The institution has been declining for years, as some services have been eliminated and the hospital has been unable to attract enough paying patients.

Ah, I see, "paying patients," because, you know, nobody pays for Medicare and Medicaid patients at U.S. hospitals.

(Note: A sidebar to the Inquirer article cited above, published online beneath the main report, provides an excellent history of the hospital.)

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