How Helen Gym’s fight to save a hospital turned her into a frontrunner to be Philadelphia’s next mayor.

by Matthew Cunningham-Cook, The Lever

When private equity threatened to destroy a 133-year-old hospital, Helen Gym, a former teacher and parent organizer turned first-term Philadelphia City Council member, sprung into action.

“How corrupt is it for an investment banker and a real estate company to come in and buy a major medical hospital in the poorest large city in the country?” Gym’s voice boomed out to a crowd of hundreds in front of Hahnemann University Hospital in central Philadelphia at a July 2019 rally with Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.), one the first times Gym’s organizing work caught national attention. “And how wrong are our laws when Joel Freedman and his cohort of vulture capitalists can run this hospital into the ground in less than 18 months and now they’re going to flip it for a real estate deal?”

Philadelphia City Councilwoman-at-Large Helen Gym (R) holds hands with a demonstrator during in a Philadelphia rally organized by the interfaith advocacy organization POWER, Thursday, August 16, 2017.

Just three weeks before, Joel Freedman, a private equity executive, had announced that he was closing the hospital. It was one of just five hospitals that could treat trauma patients, and one of just six hospitals where people could give birth, in the sixth-largest city in America.

Now Gym, after two terms on city council, is running for Philadelphia mayor on an ambitious platform to invest in and expand public institutions, especially health care and schools. If she wins in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, overcoming an entrenched Democratic Party establishment and powerful billionaires opposing her insurgent campaign, she will also confront Philadelphia’s major health and housing disparities. These deep inequities are a microcosm of yawning nationwide problems of which the federal government has effectively washed its hands.

Read More