The prognosis for Hudson County hospitals
Some are in fair condition; others better due to various initiatives
by Ricardo Kaulessar
Reporter Staff Writer
Mar 01, 2009 | 3555 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MAKING PROGRESS IN A REGRESSIVE TIME – Hoboken University Medical Center on Willow Avenue in Hoboken is looking at a financial crisis that will lead to cutbacks and layoffs. Yet, the hospital has also seen some good news in the past year, such a five-star rating for its treatment of knee surgery patients.
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While Hudson County’s six remaining hospitals have had their share of problems as a result of the economy and the failing state of insurance reimbursements, some are working on new initiatives to stay viable.

Greenville Hospital in the southern part of Jersey City closed last spring after claims by LibertyHealth System, which operated that hospital, that the facility was losing money. Yet amidst such news, there were a number of bright moments for local hospitals in the last 12 months.

The six remaining Hudson County hospitals are: Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City; Christ Hospital in Jersey City; Hoboken University Medical Center (formerly St. Mary Hospital) in Hoboken; Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus; Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, and Bayonne Medical Center in Bayonne.

Jersey City Medical Center

LibertyHealth System, which operates both the Jersey City Medical Center in that city and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, announced in January its new vision and mission to “Enhance Life.”

Joseph F. Scott, President and CEO of LibertyHealth System, said recently that the “Enhance Life” motto was not only meant to attract new patients and physicians to the hospital and bring in more revenues, but also to encourage the employees who make the hospital work.

“We believe that if the employees embody this mission every day we can raise our stature, and ultimately become financially strong and independent,” Scott said.

Jersey City Medical Center is a 273-bed hospital on Grand Street in downtown Jersey City. It has embarked on several projects over the past year that seem to support the new motto.

In February, the Division of Trauma at Jersey City Medical Center and the Jersey City Police Department’s Traffic Safety Unit joined forces with Safe Kids Hudson County, part of a statewide organization which works to prevent accidental childhood injury, to operate a permanent child seat check station. The facility is located at the Police Department’s Motorcycle Squad headquarters on Cornelison Avenue between Fairmount Avenue and Bright Street. The Traffic Safety Unit will have certified safety technicians providing free safety seat inspections on the first and third Thursday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in an effort to educate parents.

In September, Jersey City Medical Center officials were joined by Mayor Jerramiah Healy for the groundbreaking of the new $22 million Jersey City Medical Center Office Building and Ambulatory Surgery Center.

The building will be located downtown behind the current Jersey City Medical Center. The new office facility will serve the hospital in providing on-campus physician offices, an ambulatory surgery center, and an imaging center. Construction by Landmark Healthcare Facilities, LLC of Milwaukee, Wis., is expected be finished in the fall of next year.

LibertyHealth president Scott has said the new center will complement the hospital as “the hub of medical services” in Hudson County. According to officials, the building is completely rented out. Also, the hospital will own the land and will be paid about $100,000 a year by Landmark for a ground lease.
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In January, the Jersey City Medical Center received a $22 million state grant.
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Besides announcing its new motto in January, Jersey City Medical Center also received a $22 million grant from the state as part of a fund for financially distressed hospitals across New Jersey. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services awarded a total of $44 million in Stabilization Fund grants to six financially distressed hospitals in order to prop up those facing closure or considering significant cuts in health care services.

Hoboken University Medical Center, Hoboken

Hoboken University Medical Center is a 328-bed facility located on Willow Avenue and Fourth Street.

The hospital is looking forward to their upgraded emergency room, will be completed over the summer.

Ron DeVito, the chief financial officer for Hoboken University Medical Center, said in January that the hospital’s proposed budget for 2009 projects a 15 percent increase in revenue as a result of the new ER. The hospital is expecting their percentage of uninsured patients, normally 17 percent, to decrease with the opening, expecting more insured patients to use the new ER.

In 2008, HUMC reduced the average length of stay for Medicare patients to 6.5 days over the three-month period from October to December, down from 8.3 in 2007. This is considered a positive indicator because payment for Medicare varies for different procedures and diagnoses, and if the hospital takes too long to discharge the patient, they do not get paid for it.

Also this year, Hoboken University Medical Center received a $10,000 donation from Commerce Bank that will go to its Children’s Crisis Intervention Services (CCIS) Department.

In April, the nation’s leading independent health care ratings organization, Health Grades, awarded five stars — its highest rating — to Hoboken University Medical Center for operative care provided to knee surgery patients. The high rating is based on clinical outcomes of medical and nursing care. Hoboken UMC knee surgery patients, even those with pre-existing conditions, experience faster recovery times and are less likely to develop complications.

But not all is rosy for the facility, which was taken over by the city of Hoboken in 2007 because of financial problems. It management recently announced that it may have to lay off 5 percent of the staff to balance its budget.

Christ Hospital, Jersey City

In June, the 381-bed hospital on Palisade Avenue in Jersey City opened its new maternity unit.

The new facility incorporates the latest technology, including central fetal monitoring with remote capabilities, electronic medical records, and an anti-abduction security system. The new unit consists of 13 private rooms; 4 LDR (labor, delivery and recovery) suites; two C-section operative areas; a state-of-the-art prenatal testing unit (ATU); and a spacious nursery for newborns. In addition, the hospital has expanded its services to late term and post-delivery mothers to include ultrasound, bio-physical profiles, non-stress tests (NST), amniocentesis and other related maternal procedures.

Also last year, Christ Hospital achieved a five-star rating for clinical excellence in maternity care from HealthGrades, ranking in the top 5 percent of all hospitals in the nation, and has been recognized with the HealthGrades 2008/2009 Maternity Care Excellence Award.

In addition to the five-star rating from HealthGrades, Christ Hospital was ranked by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in the top quarter for efficiency and quality in newborn care.

Plans are currently in the works for a new medical arts office center which will accommodate private suites for physicians on the hospital campus. Part of this new construction will include a new ambulatory/surgical center.

Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, Secaucus

Located on Meadowlands Parkway in Secaucus, Meadowlands Hospital has also made progressive changes to its facility.

In December, the hospital brought in Emergency Medical Associates to staff its emergency department. EMA runs emergency departments at hospitals and hospital systems throughout New York and New Jersey. Their physicians treat approximately one million patients in emergency rooms annually.

“EMA has a reputation for excellence and a long history of improving patient satisfaction and reducing waiting times,” said Martin Baicker, senior vice president at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center.

Recent industry statistics show that, on average nationally, 40 percent of a hospital’s inpatient admissions enter through the emergency department.

Also, Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center has been awarded a three-year renewal of its accreditation from the American College of Radiology for its imaging services, signifying that it meets the highest standards of excellence in radiology.

This accreditation in radiology includes the hospital’s breast imaging (mammography), CT Scan, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging procedures.

The American College of Radiology, headquartered in Reston, Va., is a national organization that accredits facilities for high performance, ensuring that the physicians supervising and interpreting medical images measure up to stringent education and training standards.

Palisades Medical Center, North Bergen

The hospital, located on River Road in North Bergen, is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, which operates the 202-bed Medical Center as well as The Harborage, a 245-bed rehabilitation center and nursing home nearby.

In November, Palisades Medical Center became smoke-free, one of 23 hospitals in New Jersey to make their properties permanently smoke-free on Great American Smokeout Day.

Not only is smoking permanently banned from all hospital grounds, but the facility is helping their employees kick the habit, providing access to counseling, support, and free prescription medication.

In June, the hospital expanded its Pediatric Rehabilitation Program to support the special needs of children with disabilities and developmental delays, including children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, torticollis, and genetic disorders.

The Pediatric Rehabilitation Program at Palisades provides a full range of services for children of all abilities, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and audiology services.

“Our Pediatric Rehabilitation Program fills a critical need in our community because there are very limited services in Hudson County for children with special needs, and especially for the autistic child,” said Ingrid Pais, PT, Director of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Palisades Medical Center.

Therapists at the Pediatric Rehabilitation Program provide a comprehensive evaluation of each child and use a “family-centered” approach to help each child reach his or her potential.

Bayonne Medical Center, Bayonne

The hospital on Avenue E in Bayonne has had its share of accomplishments and accolades since it was taken over by IJKG Opco, LLC last February while teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. It is a 278-bed, fully accredited, acute-care hospital providing health care services to more than 70,000 people annually.

In December, NJBIZ Business Magazine named Bayonne Medical Center a winner in its “Businesses With 101 Employees” category at its annual Business of the Year Awards ceremony.

The award was accepted on behalf of Bayonne Medical Center by its president and CEO, Daniel Kane, who commented, “We are very grateful that the steps we’ve taken to make Bayonne Medical Center into a financially stable, high-quality community hospital have been recognized by our peers in the business community.”

Also in December, Bayonne Medical Center enhanced its diagnostic imaging capabilities with the addition of a new, state-of the-art PET/CT system, which offers early and highly accurate detection of cancer. This makes BMC the only hospital in Hudson County to provide PET/CT services.

In the summer, the hospital reopened its psychiatric department with a focus on providing treatment to Bayonne’s senior citizens, who make up about 20 percent of the city’s population.

Ricardo Kaulessar may be reached at rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com.

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