Pope's visit to Philadelphia cost city hospitals $6M

Ahead of Pope Francis' visit in September, local hospitals in Philadelphia spent an estimated $6 million preparing for massive crowds and potential large-scale medical emergencies that did not occur, according to Philly.com.

Philadelphia hospitals enlisted more employees during his visit and brought in food, sleeping supplies and towels for employees to use inside the hospitals. They also reduced patient loads before the weekend over traffic concerns and to make room for high volumes of patients should a medical emergency occur.

Hospitals will not be reimbursed for the extra measures taken on account of the Pope.

To come up with its estimate, DVHC polled eight health systems and nine hospitals for a total of 32 hospitals in Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs, according to the report. Measures in the poll included money spent on increased staffing, sleeping accommodations and other necessary resources for the pope's visit.

The Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, which released the cost estimate, is not complaining about the price tag of the pope's visit.

"It's somewhat a cost of doing business and it's the nature of our business," said Mark Ross, regional emergency preparedness manager for the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, DVHC's parent organization, according to the report.

Penn Medicine's CMO P.J. Brennan, MD, agreed that the pontiff's visit was expensive "but a positive experience," according to the report. While there were some "miscalculations" about the event, the experience helped refine the city's emergency planning procedures.

"I tend to think of this on a civic scale and I think the net result of this was a very positive thing for the city," said Dr. Brennan, according to the report.

Richard Webster, president of Thomas Jefferson University, said he hopes the hospitals' preparedness during the Pope's visit reminds the government of nonprofit hospitals' value to the community.

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