City Council likely to approve new health center in underserved section of Northeast Philadelphia

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 By Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council is expected to greenlight a zoning change that will clear the way for a new city health center on the grounds of Friends Hospital in the Northeast. Although the project has faced opposition for years, it cleared a council committee last week.

Councilmember Quetcy Lozada urged her colleagues at a committee hearing last week to approve the new health center, which would serve 30,000 patients a year.

“The Northeast has been a public health desert for a really long time,” she said. “Hearing from residents how long it takes for them to see a doctor, hearing the distance that they have to travel to see a physician, we needed to make sure the decisions were made to make everyone healthier.”

Carol Rogers, who was with the health department when the center was first proposed nine years ago, said she’s haunted by the fact that patients with chronic health problems waited months to see a doctor. Oftentimes, children wait six months and adults 10 months to get an appointment at the only other city health center in the Northeast.

“Heart attack, kidney failure, amputation, early death because they were unable to get the care they needed,” said Rogers. “I struggle with the reality — how many would be healthier today if their health care needs had been met? If we had built a health center then, how many would be alive today?

“Our city has the highest rates of people living with disabilities in the country. Would our rates be so painfully high if we had been able to serve the primary health needs of our people then?”

The project has been stalled for nine years for a variety of reasons most recently because neighbors opposed demolishing a historic yet dilapidated building for the new center: the 136-year-old Caretaker’s Cottage.

“It’s the only national historic landmark in Northeast Philadelphia,” argued neighbor Linda Morrison.

Lawyer Nathan Ferris represents the Scattergood Foundation — the owner of Friends Hospital — and urged the committee to approve the project.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to further the campus’ legacy of serving the neediest Philadelphians,” he said.

The committee unanimously approved the zoning change needed for construction. The full council is expected to do the same, and that would be the final hurdle before the new health center can be built.

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