Our Residents Lives Won’t Be Chips in A Game of Corporate Greenmail

Imagine the crushing stress our heroic doctors and nurses endure at Bayonne Medical Center, Hoboken University Medical Center, and Christ Hospital in Jersey City as they work to save lives during the COVID19 pandemic.

Then imagine their stress being cruelly ramped up further—not by a spike in caseloads—but by a profiteering nursing home bandit whose actions threaten their jobs and the health of all of us they serve.

I didn’t have to imagine it. That was the grim prospect presented by Bayonne’s Mayor Jimmy Davis to me as he described how Avery Eisenreich, owner of Alaris Health, was blocking the sale of Bayonne Medical Center to a private bidder committed to maintaining it as an acute care hospital for the people of Bayonne.

Eisenreich owns the property on which Bayonne Medical Center operates as well as 70 percent of the Hoboken University Medical Center’s property and a 25 percent stake in both HUMC and Christ Hospital. He also has blocked for months the sale of these two hospitals to RJW Barnabas Health as part of a separate deal that Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop have both publicly supported as a way to allow these hospitals to go on serving their residents.

After much discussion with the mayors, legal counsel, and our professional staff, I put in motion the process required for Hudson County to seize Mr. Eisenreich’s ownership of the land involved and his share of the hospitals under our County Improvement Authority’s power of eminent domain.

This week the Board of Freeholders will vote on a resolution required to ensure the Improvement Authority has its backing to spend what may be necessary to purchase these assets at a fair price and then see to it they are resold to entities willing and able to manage them as acute care hospitals. I am urging the membership to support this resolution. Their affirmative vote will show that Hudson County not only stands with our healthcare heroes and the patients they serve during a crisis, but every day.

I have just one message for Mr. Eisenreich: While published reports last week described this action as a “last resort” it should not be viewed as an empty threat. If the costly sacrifices made to “flatten the curve” during this pandemic have proved one thing, it is that our supply of hospital beds cannot be simply be viewed as a source of private profit, but as a critical community resource. I will not lose one life in our county to a game of cheap greenmail. A deal must be reached or we will act to protect the health and safety of our residents.

Tom DeGise

Hudson County Executive