Newark City Council Members Vow to Save Saint Michael’s Medical Center

Friday, 20 March 2015 18:01 Local Talk News Editor



Members of the Newark City Council vowed to save Saint Michael's Medical Center after members of a coalition voiced their concerns at a City Council meeting over recommendations in a state-commissioned report that calls for the hospital to be converted into an ambulatory care center.

Council members unanimously expressed support for the hospital after members of the Save Saint Michael's Medical Center Coalition testified in opposition to the Navigant report during Wednesday's meeting.

"The council is united in its support for Saint Michael's," said South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James. "We've got your back," said Council President Mildred Crump.

Members of the coalition turned in petitions with more than 10,000 signatures and called on the City Council to urge Governor Christie to approve the sale of Saint Michael's to Prime Healthcare, which plans to continue Saint Michael's as a full-service acute-care hospital.

"Saint Michael's along with Rutgers and NJIT anchor the community," said Dennis A. Pettigrew, Saint Michael's chief financial officer and chief operating officer. "Cutting back Saint Michael's to an ambulatory care center, if it is even financially feasible – as the Navigant report suggests – would reduce the hospital to a shell of what it is today and likely lead to closure of the entire facility; in similar fashion to what occurred with the former St. James and Columbus Hospitals."

Pettigrew said if Saint Michael's were to close, it would devastate Newark's most vulnerable populations who have limited resources and depend on Saint Michael's for necessary health services.

"If Saint Michael's were to close, more than 1,400 people could lose their jobs, including hundreds of Newark residents," Pettigrew said.

Dr. Alexander G. Salerno, an internist at Saint Michael's Medical Center, spoke passionately about two programs that he is intimately involved with that send medical staff into the community – the Senior Health Outreach Program (SHOP) and Urban Healthcare Initiative Program.

"Programs such as these have provided proactive, integrated healthcare to inner city seniors, home bound patients, and populations that have historically experienced disproportionately poor health outcomes, including Latinos, African Americans, and those with behavioral health issues. Saint Michael's has been a leader and innovator in public health and service," Salerno said.

"If Trenton succeeds in reducing Saint Michael's Medical Center into a shell of what it is today, support for these programs that provide vital medical services for residents in nearly every ward in Newark would end," Salerno warned.

Drew Alban said in his 27 years as a union engineer at Saint Michael's, three hospitals in Newark have closed.

"I don't believe that the city can afford to lose another," Alban said. "In 2014, almost 40,000 people were treated in our emergency room alone. That is 40,000 people who received immediate care and did not have to wait for a doctor's appointment."

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