Newark to close 2 Hospital’s anger’s Local Officials

12 01 2008

The possible closure of two Newark hospitals has infuriated local officials who say they were blindsided by the deal.

Catholic Health East, a Pennsylvania company, wants to assume ownership of three city hospitals from the Cathedral Healthcare System, an affiliate of the Archdiocese of Newark.

The plan calls for Columbus Hospital to close and acute-care service to cease at St. James Hospital by late spring. St. Michael’s Medical Center will stay open and receive $130 million in improvements.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he was “angry and anguished, and frustrated and fired up” about being left out of the discussions.

“They kept us in the dark and thrust it on us,” he said Friday.

Booker said he demanded, and got, a meeting with Catholic Health East officials in his office on Monday. He said he will also raise the hospital issue with Governor Corzine at a meeting today.

St. James Hospital is essential because it is a regional facility serving 70,000 residents, Booker said.

“It’s not just about the Ironbound neighborhood,” he said. “In many ways, it’s the closest hospital to the main transportation hub.”

The largest hospital in the city, University Hospital, is “already beleaguered by the charity care cases they have to do,” he said.

Cathedral Healthcare officials said the handover — it will not receive any money for the three hospitals — was necessary.

Without the changes, “all three of our hospitals will fail by mid-March,” said the Rev. Msgr. Ronald J. Rozniak, chairman and chief executive officer of Cathedral.

Losing $6 million a month, the three hospitals expect a combined loss of nearly $135 million for 2004 to 2007, according to Brendan Middleton of Cathedral.

Rather than closing, St. James may modify some of its services, such as changing its 24-hour emergency room to a 12-hour family walk-in center, said Scott Share, spokesman for Catholic Health East in Newtown Square, Pa. The hospital might also become a long-term care facility, Share said.

“We’re looking at what other services are most needed by the community,” he said. “There’ll be an ongoing dialogue with the city and residents.”

The state must approve the acquisition, said Tom Slater, spokesman for the state Health Department.

“The plan they’ve laid out reflects the best possible hope for maintaining access to health care in the region,” he said Friday.

Union officials representing workers at two of the hospitals said they were cautiously optimistic that members will keep their jobs.

“We’re very happy St. Michael’s is getting a shot at reviving themselves,” said Virginia Tracy, executive director of JNESO District Council 1, International Union of Operating Engineers.

The union is hopeful that, after a community-needs assessment is done, some clinic and emergency room services will remain at St. James, Tracy said.

A community meeting to discuss the hospital will be held at 10 a.m. today in St. James Roman Catholic Church, 143 Madison St.




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