Monday 23 January 2012: A Fighting, Healing Place
A close friend is mending after having both hip joints replaced, so today I grabbed my umbrella and paid her a visit. She's doing well, but was a bit sleepy while I was there.
Hahnemann Hospital is now owned by Drexel University, but it started in 1848 and bears the name of Samuel Hahnemann, the father of Homeopathic Medicine. This is its second location (Broad & Vine Streets), where it already stood by 1902, when Philly's star anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre was shot by a crazed former pupil. Her life was saved by a hair's breadth, but she carried three bullets inside her for the remaining ten years of her life. These structures went up long after Voltairine's harsh experience, but in her bed at Hahnemann she remarked to a friend, "I tell you, Brownie, hot lead in the body feels very queer."
In 1998 I was sued for libel by Allegheny, the corporation that owned this hospital at the time. I had written about unethical and illegal practices in drug research at another hospital they owned, and by some strange miracle, it was reprinted in Harper's. The storm raged for four months, but I was vindicated in the end. Shortly after the suit against me & the magazine was dropped, the corporation and all of its 25 hospitals went bankrupt and made a ruin of Pennsylvania's health care system. It was the right moment for me to say, "I told you they sucked," and that was pretty much what I said.
The last time I visited Hahnemann was in the winter of 2008, as a union organizer. The service workers were already under contract and a handful of the nurses wanted in. Then the management made an agreement with a different union whose organizers had full access to the nurses, while I had to sneak in and post my information in staff break rooms. At the end of the day, most of the nurses simply weren't interested and no union gained any new members. It's a fairly annoying memory.
Whether you're dealing with hot lead or a fresh pair of hip joints, you could do a lot worse than Hahnemann as the place to do it.