The office of the New Jersey Attorney General and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services will hold two public hearings this week on the proposed sale of Jersey City’s Christ Hospital to the owners of Bayonne Medical Center and Hoboken University Medical Center.
The hearings will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, May 23rd and 24th, at Hudson County Community College. Both hearings will begin at 6 p.m. Such hearings are required by state law before a hospital’s ownership can be transferred from one owner to another.
On March 27, a federal bankruptcy judge awarded the struggling Christ Hospital to Hudson Hospital Holdco, which beat out a rival bid from LibertyHealth System, the owner of Jersey City Medical Center.
This week’s public hearings are a legally-required part of the state approval process.
‘We have learned from experience’
If this sale is approved, Christ Hospital will be the fourth Hudson County nonprofit hospital to be sold to a for-profit company in recent years. Bayonne Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center, and Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus are all now operated by for-profit entities.
Several state agencies, including the state Attorney General and the Department of Health and Senior Services, must still approve the sale of the medical facility to Hudson Hospital Holdco.
In a May 14 letter to the Department of Health and Senior Services, the union that represents 400 nurses at Christ Hospital, Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), has requested that the agency strengthen or expand several commitments Hudson Hospital Holdco made in its Asset Purchase Agreement.
Among the requests HPAE made in this letter are a commitment from the buyer to: 1) operate Christ Hospital as a full-service acute care hospital with all the clinical services and community health programs currently offered for at least 10 years; 2) maintain nurse-to-patient ratios sufficient to maintain patient safety and quality of care; 3) hire an independent monitor for health care access and charity care compliance; 4) provide care for patients, regardless of ability to pay or insurance coverage; 5) include community members, workers and local elected officials in implementing the Navigant report, which recommended that Hudson County hospitals collaborate and consolidate services; and 6) retain the current nursing staff, in addition to 90 percent of the remaining hospital workers, and provide all employees with health coverage equivalent to current coverage.
“We have learned from experience that our regulatory agencies must be vigilant in monitoring for-profit companies and their adherence to conditions that protect patient care, access to care, and safe working conditions and staffing levels,” Nicole Mankowski, a registered nurse at Christ Hospital and president of the local HPAE, said in a May 16 statement.
“While we support this sale,” she continued, “we also are aware of the real pressures that will be placed on patient care and services when one for-profit company controls three hospitals in Hudson County, a community with many uninsured families. Health care in Hudson County is at a critical point – and we should not be deciding what services will be offered or eliminated to our communities without a health needs assessment, and without the voices of the community, our elected officials and our health professionals.”
HPAE, which supports the sale of Christ to Hudson Hospital Holdco, already has a tentative labor agreement with the hospital’s likely buyer. If the sale is approved by the state this labor agreement will be put up for a vote by HPAE members at Christ.
HPAE spokesperson Jeanne Otersen said, “It’s still going to be up to the community and staff to work with the new owners to make sure that Christ Hospital and its mission are preserved. We intend to continue that advocacy.”
According to sources who attended the bankruptcy hearings earlier this year, Holdco has agreed to buy Christ Hospital for $43 million. The struggling hospital currently loses about $800,000 a month.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.