Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) elected leaders were notified on July 1 by the administration of CarePoint Health that layoff notices would be sent to employees.
HPAE, the largest union of nurses and health professionals in New Jersey, represents nurses at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and the nurses, health professionals, technical, service, business and clerical staff at Bayonne Medical Center in Bayonne.
“While layoffs are a common course of action for CarePoint, this does raise eyebrows in light of the scathing report released just a few months ago which highlighted questionable business practices and financial transactions made by the company,” said Debbie White, HPAE president, in a statement.
The recommendations of the state investigators must be reviewed and the state must intervene to monitor how the owners will take steps to protect the financial stability of CarePoint hospitals,” said White.
CarePoint Health, a for-profit company, operates Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and Hoboken University Medical Center.
Jennifer Morrill a spokesperson for CarePoint Health said: “Hospitals across the country and certainly in New Jersey are seeing decreased patient volumes as more options for care emerge, such as urgent care centers, imaging centers, ambulatory surgery sites, etc. Hospitals have the financial responsibility to staff the patient volume they serve and to adapt staffing to meet the patients where they are – in the hospital or in outpatient and ambulatory settings.”
Morrill said that earlier this year CarePoint initiated a rigorous and thoughtful process to review its hospitals for workforce efficiencies and care management.
“While we have identified a number of efficiencies, it is important to note a majority will be achieved through a reduction in agency usage, a reduction in overtime and closing select open positions — as well as a modest rightsizing,” Morrill said.
“While never an easy endeavor, we have utilized the most extreme caution and care to develop a plan that preserves our mission of providing the highest quality health care for the Hudson County community and maintains operational efficiency.”
HPAE said that according to a report released in March by the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigations (SCI), CarePoint hospitals paid tens of millions of dollars in questionable management fees and allocations to private entities known as “related parties.”
According to HPAE, these related-party management entities have no employees and only limited operating expenses that, in combination with other information, raises questions about the nature of their operations.
“Rather than heed the warnings of the report, CarePoint is relying on prior practices of reducing their health care workforce to protect the financial interests of the corporate owners,” said White.
The report released by SCI recommended they enhance the Department of Health’s (DOH) ability to help ensure the long-term adequacy and viability of hospitals by ensuring money is properly spent; enable the DOH to conduct comparisons between and among various hospitals to best determine which hospitals may be in financial distress; and ensure a proper understanding of the financials that will help the department and other state agencies, legislators and others make well-informed policy decisions regarding the amounts and types of state aid that should be allocated to hospitals.
HPAE said it has urged the Murphy administration to appoint a financial monitor to implement the recommendations of the SCI report and bring oversight to the state’s health care system.
“Under the previous administration our union’s warning cries regarding for-profit hospital finances were ignored by the Christie Administration. Now we are not alone in sounding the alarm as the state’s own investigation has alerted us all too questionable practices,” said White.
“The days of Chris Christie ignoring business practices that harm working people has come to an end. We look forward to working with Gov. Murphy and Trenton lawmakers to bring transparency and accountability into health care to protect the interests of patients and health care professionals,” said White.
Details on the layoffs would be released after the HPAE and administration negotiate their terms. HPAE said it is expected that nearly 40 employees representated by HPAE will receive layoff notices at both hospitals.