Penn Medicine and others to launch innovative health care collaboration in West Philadelphia

Penn Medicine, Public Health Management Corporation, Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic and Independence Blue Cross join together to transform Mercy Catholic Medical Center campus in an innovative partnership to care for the West Philadelphia community.

Front gate at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital with a sign reading “After every storm comes a rainbow. West Philly Strong. #HereBesideYou.”
The coalition partners with Mercy Philadelphia Hospital plan to develop a campus focused on health equity for the surrounding West Philadelphia community. 

A coalition of the region’s premier health care organizations announced today their intention to join forces to transform Mercy Philadelphia into a thriving, reimagined campus built on a guiding principle to provide high-quality, community-informed health care and services at an innovative public health campus designed to serve the needs of the facility’s West Philadelphia neighbors.

Coalition partners—Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), Penn Medicine, Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic and Independence Blue Cross—plan to develop a campus focused on health equity for the surrounding West Philadelphia community. Its operations will rely heavily on a patient-centered approach to high-quality medical care and social services. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is also exploring the option to offer pediatric behavioral health services on the campus.

“For nearly 50 years, PHMC has been embedded in Philadelphia providing public health programs and services to individuals and families that address social determinants of health in communities,” said Richard J. Cohen, president and CEO of PHMC. “With our history and experience in West Philadelphia, we look forward to this exciting collaboration with these premier health partners to further support access to high-quality integrated health care and social services.”

The planned deal involves PHMC owning and operating the current Mercy Philadelphia facility, and leasing the space to community partners. A portion of the campus will include PHMC programming. PHMC will also lease space to Penn Medicine to run the facility’s emergency department and accompanying inpatient medical and behavioral health beds as a remote location for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). In addition to this oversight, Penn will provide both onsite and remote inpatient care, leveraging services from both HUP and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. Independence Blue Cross will support engagement of community-based, nonprofit social services. Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic, the current hospital owner, will continue to serve the community through a variety of health care and social service programs.

Working together with other local health care and social service organizations, the coalition partners aim to create a multifaceted public health campus to ensure that members of the community have access to primary and community care, emergency services, limited acute care, expanded behavioral health services, and other social support services.

“We are committed to finding new solutions to ensure that West Philadelphia residents can easily receive health care services—especially from primary care providers, whose help provides the foundation for good health across all the regions we serve,” said Kevin B. Mahoney, chief executive officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “The COVID-19 epidemic has underscored the necessity of working together past the walls of individual institutions—collaboration and bringing together diverse expertise is the best way to make a difference for our communities.”

“At Independence we have pledged to work with the community and partner organizations to address racial inequities in the healthcare system. Across Philadelphia, Black residents experience higher rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension,” said Daniel J. Hilferty, chief executive officer of Independence Blue Cross. “This unique collaboration will put the priorities and needs of West Philadelphia residents front and center. Together, we will enhance access to a range of services, with a new model for community health including critical social services to close the health gaps and inequities which have existed for far too long.”

While some acute care beds will be retained to support the emergency department, providers will work to connect patients to primary and community care providers. Unlike the recent closure of Hahnemann Hospital, which remains a stark example of the perils of any wind-down process, the coalition partners will provide an array of medical, behavioral, and social service program options that will maintain—and ultimately improve—community access to care, while retaining jobs and ensuring the reimagined Mercy campus is a thriving center of activity.

PHMC, Penn Medicine, and Independence Blue Cross will explore community partnerships to identify supplemental offerings to address key community issues, such as food insecurity, health and wellness education, and activities to support the community. Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic began initial work in this area earlier this year following its announcement that it was seeking to transition the Mercy Philadelphia Campus from an inpatient hospital to a facility better suited to the needs of the community.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney applauded the coalition’s innovative collaboration.

“Thank you to the coalition partners for their planned and thoughtful approach in maintaining and enhancing necessary health care and social services in West Philadelphia,” Kenney said. “Now more than ever our residents deserve access to high-quality health care and social services in their communities. The City supports the efforts of the partners and this exciting opportunity to address the full spectrum of our residents’ health needs.”

“This new partnership between PHMC, Penn Medicine, Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic and Independence Blue Cross provides an opportunity to maintain high-quality medical care at this location—and to offer emergency medicine and social services to West Philadelphia residents,” said City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier. “I look forward to working together as we continue to serve the needs of our community.”

While Mercy Philadelphia’s physical plant will be transformed through this new collaboration, the Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic team will remain engaged with the community it has served for more than a century through several initiatives and by continuing to operate and expand the Mercy Senior Center.

“Earlier this year, we began a slow and deliberate process of transitioning this campus away from an inpatient hospital—a model we determined was not sustainable—shifting toward an approach better equipped to address the current and future needs of the West Philadelphia community,” said James Woodward, president and CEO of Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic. “We’ve done our best to include our patients, community, and colleagues throughout this process, and we firmly believe the collaboration between PHMC, Penn Medicine, and Independence is best positioned to bring the right mix of services and care to the community for the long-term. We are committed to help make this as smooth a transition as possible.”

As the collaboration continues, the institutions will evaluate the need for additional services to complement the offerings at the new public health campus.

This story is by Abbey Hunton.