Three mayors, three hospitals, and one “stumbling block”

Hudson County officials present united front; claim Alaris Health blocks impending hospital deal

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Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said Hoboken University Medical Center was the heart of Hoboken.
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Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Alaris Health has put the health of Hudson County residents at risk.
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Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis said "healthcare should never be about dollars and cents. It should be about common sense.”
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Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said Hoboken University Medical Center was the heart of Hoboken.
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Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Alaris Health has put the health of Hudson County residents at risk.
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Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis said "healthcare should never be about dollars and cents. It should be about common sense.”

Alaris Health stands in the way of keeping three local hospitals open and operational, according to the mayors of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne, who claim greed is being put before the public good.

“We are calling on Alaris to stop putting greed in front of a solution,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. “Their greed is ultimately putting tens of thousands of people’s health at risk.”

According to the elected officials, RWJ Barnabas Health and CarePoint Health have come to an agreement over the operation of Bayonne Medical Center (BMC), Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and Hoboken University Medical Center (HUMC), but the deal has been stalled by Avery Eisniriech of Alaris Health who has a 70 percent stake of HUMC’s land, a 25 percent stake in Christ Hospital’s land, and owns all of BMC’s land.

According to Fulop, RWJBarnabas wants to acquire HUMC’s land but Eisenreich has set the price at $300 million for the property, which he acquired for $51 million.

“Today, the ownership of the land is the single largest stumbling block for us to get a deal done so that we, all the communities in Hudson County, the three hospitals, remain open,” said Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis. “Our healthcare should never be about dollars and cents. It should be about common sense.”

Mayor Ravi Bhalla said HUMC was “the heart of Hoboken,” noting that the Hoboken City Council is working on legislation that will help protect HUMC’s land by establishing an H-1 hospital zone.

If adopted on second reading, the rezoning would mean the area could be used only for medical purposes.

“We are taking every measure within our legal powers to ensure Hoboken University Medical Center remains at the level, if not better, as a vital acute care facility,” he said

Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise said he and other legislators will “fight tooth and nail” to keep the hospitals operational, noting that the county has seen tremendous growth which “cannot be sustained” without the healthcare facilities.

Debbie White, President of Health Professional and Allied Employees (HPAE), spoke on behalf of 14,000 healthcare employees whom she represents in New Jersey, demanding a “swift resolution” of the negotiations over the future of the CarePoint hospitals.

A spokesperson from Alaris Health did not return a call seeking comment.

New legislation

State Senator Brian Stack said he is working with state legislators on a new bill which would streamline the process for municipalities to condemn hospital property in order to keep them as hospitals.

“We all know how important healthcare is,” Stack said. “It’s said that one person could hold it up, and we need to stop this from happening not only in Hudson but all over the state of New Jersey.”

According to a statement from CarePoint Health, the company supports the eminent domain legislation.

“It assures that hospital real estate owners cannot block hospitals from continuing their community purpose, and gives cities the ability to make that determination to assure the public interest is served,” said CarePoint Health in a statement. “CarePoint thanks all of the mayors and legislators who are supporting the bill as well as the local unions.”

CarePoint Health said it was hopeful that the bill would pave the way for both the Bayonne and Hoboken properties to be purchased and allow RWJBH to finalize the HUMC and Christ Hospital transactions.

“CarePoint and RWJBH have already agreed on material terms satisfactory to both parties as it relates to the Christ Hospital Property and sale of the Hoboken and Christ Hospital operations,” said CarePoint Health in a statement.

According to a statement provided by RWJBarnabas Health, RWJBarnabas Health has a proud history of serving the residents of Hudson County and maintains a strong network of healthcare facilities that it wants to expand through the acquisition of Christ Hospital and HUMC.

“RWJBH has repeatedly made incredibly generous offers to proceed – most recently one global offer to the owners of both CarePoint and HUMC,” said RWJBH in a statement. “Given the reportedly precarious financial position of some of these hospitals, our goal continues to be a rapid resolution and a workable agreement that allows the residents, employees, and medical staffs to flourish and become part of the solid RWJBH community.  We remain hopeful to reach that goal.”

In December, CarePoint sued Alaris, claiming it had interfered with the RWJBH agreement. Alaris countersued, alleging CarePoint Health had siphoned off profits from the hospitals.

According to a February letter from Hudson County legislators to Gov. Phil Murphy, Christ Hospital and BMC are weeks away from bankruptcy. According to officials, the Department of Health has had weekly calls with CarePoint Health to monitor the hospitals’ financial viability.

“It now appears that Christ Hospital is on the verge of bankruptcy and petitioning for closure and that Bayonne Medical Center is only a few weeks behind,” the letter reads.

According to the DOH, the state has appointed Christ Hospital a state monitor to oversee the hospital’s finances.

For updates on this and other stories check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Marilyn Baer can be reached at Marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.