Newark politicians blast recommendation to turn hospital into same-day facility

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 04, 2015

NEWARK — A coalition of elected officials and union organizers lambasted today a report that recommended the state turn Saint Michael's Medical Center into a same-day facility.

The report, conducted by Navigant Consulting, said there are five hospitals competing in the Newark-Essex County area with 1,495 beds, but only 1,271 are needed.

Navigant also recommended that Saint Michael's Medical Center and East Orange General Hospital be turned into same-day medical facilities.

"The city of Newark is not going to sit by and allow this hospital to close," North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos said today during a press conference at the medical center. "We're gonna put our boxing gloves on."

Central Ward Councilman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins echoed similar sentiments, arguing that city residents should have access to multiple options for their health care needs.

"I'm disgusted that government would now turn around and take away choice again," she said.

The report arrives seven years after the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority funded a deal with $190 million in publicly-financed bonds which kept Saint Michael's open, but allowed two other hospitals in the city to close.

In addition to Saint Michael's, the other hospitals in the Essex County area include Clara Maass Medical Center, East Orange General Hospital, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, and University Hospital, Newark.

If nothing changes "the combined projected financial performance of the five study hospitals would go from an operating loss...of $32 million in 2013 to more than $190 million in 2019," the report said.

The report arrives as state officials are still considering whether or not to approve a deal to sell Saint Michael's to to Prime Healthcare Services, a large for-profit hospital chain in California.

Ramos and Chaneyfield Jenkins have been two of several city lawmakers to support the deal, saying its the most likely way to keep the hospital. Additionally, at least two unions have expressed support for the deal.

But late last year Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and a coalition of community activists held a press conference to criticize the deal because it didn't guarantee the hospital would stay open beyond five years and, they claimed, the chain had a reputation for dropping medical services.

Baraka said in an interview last month that the city's position would be informed by the Navigant study, a report being commissioned by the state to evaluate the healthcare offerings in Newark.

"We take the subject of health care in the City of Newark extremely seriously, regarding it as a public safety issue for our residents," Baraka said today in a statement.

"That being said, we will have no comment on the Navigant report until we have fully reviewed this document and its conclusions."

Officials with Navigant and the state health department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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