For many decades, Mercy Catholic Medical Center – Mercy Philadelphia Campus (originally known as Misericordia Hospital when it was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1918) at 54th and Cedar Avenue has been an anchor health care institution in West Philadelphia, providing essential services to its surrounding communities. When financial difficulties put it at risk of closure last year, several health care organizations in the region — including Penn Medicine, Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Independence Blue Cross — formed a coalition to ensure that the hospital campus would continue to connect community residents to essential health services.
But the coalition’s plans extend beyond just keeping the hospital as a traditional safety net. “We want to create a innovative public health campus,” said Dorie Heald, MBA, director of Business Development at UPHS, explaining that the group’s vision is to “transition the hospital into a central medical hub that offers medical, behavioral and social services to meet community needs.”
Providing easy access to primary and preventive care is crucial, she said. Previously the community had depended on Mercy’s ED to provide this care. Penn Medicine is working with PHMC on this vision to create a crucial access point to care on the Mercy campus which would potentially provide comprehensive primary care and preventive care, including health, dental, and behavioral health services.
While the partner organizations will work toward realizing this public health campus vision in the months and years ahead, Penn Medicine celebrated a key milestone in that journey last month. The successful transfer of onsite Emergency, inpatient and behavioral health services from Mercy — which occurred at 12 a.m. on March 25 — resulted from a multidisciplinary team effort. “We reached out and brought people together,” said Luann Brady, UPHS chief operating officer, who oversaw the operational components of the Mercy transition. “It took a village to get this done.”
Aligning with HUP
While PHMC owns the building and its assets — the campus is now known as PHMC Public Health Center on Cedar — Penn Medicine has leased 186,000 square feet of space to provide the facility’s emergency services and inpatient medicine and psychiatric/behavioral health care, as well as the necessary inpatient support services, such as radiology and lab medicine. “We’ll also be leveraging telemedicine for patients who require specialty consultations,” said Aron Berman, HUP assistant executive hospital director. “We want to maintain a level of access to quality health care in the community, ensuring a safe, coordinated, and effective transition of services and building a robust community-based health campus over time.”
The clinical facility, now known as HUP — Cedar Avenue, is considered a remote hospital location of HUP, under its license; it is not a separate hospital. The transition brought several key upgrades to align Mercy with HUP’s main campus. For example, the hospital’s medication dispensing and purchasing systems were switched to align with HUP. New lab equipment was brought in and had to be operational before the go-live. One of the biggest technical challenges, though, was introducing PennChart, Penn Medicine’s electronic health record, to the location. “IS did tremendous work in bringing PennChart to that campus — the build, the functional testing and ultimately the go-live on that campus on March 25,” Brady said.
The scope of some on-site services has also been expanded. Clinical nutrition is now available seven days a week instead of five; physical, occupational and speech therapies expanded to a seven-day model as well.
In addition to health care services, Brady said the coalition partners hope to increase community involvement, for example, working with PMHC to restart the volunteer program which had been suspended. “Colleen Mattioni [HUP’s chief nurse executive] would also like to create a food pantry, similar to the one at HUP but for both employees and members of the community.”
A Commitment to Mercy Employees
Along with providing health care services to the community, Mercy has also been a major source of employment in the community. And preserving those jobs “was our goal from day one,” said HUP Chief Human Resources Officer Denise Mariotti.
All of Mercy’s eligible employees in the areas where HUP now operates were given the opportunity to stay in their current job at the same rate of pay and employees in contracted roles including environmental and dietary services were offered roles through HUP’s vendor partners. HR arranged for both onsite and virtual meet-and-greets by many disciplines (including radiology, nursing, and security) to provide opportunities to ask questions and learn about onboarding at HUP. Although guaranteed their current jobs, all Mercy employees had to go through the application process, which included regulatory requirements such as background screening.
“A community job fair in April will also allow open positions at Mercy to be made available first and prioritized to any members of the local community interested in applying,” Mariotti said.
Those Mercy employees who opted to stay at Mercy after the transition were paired with an onboarding specialist “who became their shoulder-to-shoulder person to lead them through the entire process. We didn’t want them to run into any road blocks or feel any burdens,” Mariotti said, including continued support as they navigate training on PennChart and other patient care technology.
On March 25, employees at the newly named HUP — Cedar Avenue as well as at HUP on 34th Street logged on for a live virtual celebration featuring remarks from Perelman School of Medicine Dean J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD; UPHS CEO Kevin Mahoney; HUP CEO Regina Cunningham, RN, PhD; partners from PHMC and CHOP and Philadelphia City Councilmember Jamie Gauthier. Other elected officials and community partners shared their well wishes and support via video during the event and more.
The entire process of onboarding Mercy employees “was a well-orchestrated transition with a lot of partnership with Corporate HR partners in Talent Management and Recruitment,” Mariotti said. “This huge undertaking showed a big commitment on our part to save the hospital and become an integral part of the community.”
“Our purpose is to create a hub for health and well-being,” Brady said. “We didn’t want another Hahnemann situation — a hospital closed and the community left reeling from not having care.”