Newark mayor, others urge N.J. to reject Prime takeover of Saint Michael’s

Beth Fitzgerald//November 12, 2014

Newark mayor, others urge N.J. to reject Prime takeover of Saint Michael’s

Beth Fitzgerald//November 12, 2014

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and other officials Wednesday asked the state Department of Health to reject the proposed $50 million sale of Saint Michael’s Hospital to the for-profit Prime Healthcare Services of California.This Saturday is the deadline the state has set to receive results of a study of health care in the greater Newark area conducted by the Navigant consulting firm. Navigant was commissioned by the state to consider the possible consolidation or regionalization of services now provided by the Newark area’s five hospitals and four other publicly funded health facilities. Navigant was also asked to look at whether health care services in the region are inadequate and need to be strengthened.

Consumer advocates and labor unions have formed the Campaign to Protect Community Healthcare and said they’ve gathered nearly a thousand postcards from Newark residents calling on the Saint Michael’s board to reopen the bidding process.

Baraka said in a statement: “This proposed sale of Saint Michael’s Hospital to Prime Healthcare does not support the needs of the residents of the city of Newark, or the level of health care that they deserve.”

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India Hayes Larrier, spokesperson for the campaign, said the group wants the state to require that any buyer of the hospital will keep it open for the long term; remain part of insurance company networks; and maintain staffing levels.

In a statement, Saint Michael’s said it is “committed to serving the people and communities of the greater Newark area with exceptional health care, and we are pleased Prime Healthcare plans to help us continue to pursue our mission of caring and healing.”

The hospital said, “We selected Prime Healthcare as the most viable option to financially stabilize and secure a vibrant future for the medical center, ensuring it not only remains open as an acute-care facility, but also grows and prospers.”

The statement said Prime has never sold a hospital it has acquired.

In its own statement, Prime said it is committed to saving Saint Michael’s and preserving the critical health care needs of Newark residents.

“We agree with Mayor Baraka in that Newark cannot afford to have another hospital close. If those opposing the acquisition get their way, Saint Michael’s will likely close or be a shell of itself, certainly hundreds of well-paying jobs will vanish and Newark residents will once again be shortchanged,” it said. “We continue to hope that we can meet with the mayor and show him our dedication to providing the highest quality of health care to his constituents.”

Prime said it has never closed or sold a hospital, has never closed a service line or department, and has no intention of doing that at Saint Michael’s. Prime “is committed to keeping the hospital open, including the emergency department and all other service lines, for 10 years or longer. We will retain substantially all employees and commit to maintaining staffing levels necessary to ensure safe patient care.”

Prime acquired St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic earlier this year and said it has invested more than $15 million at St. Mary’s. Prime said it is committed to investing $30 million in equipment upgrades and capital improvements at Saint Michael’s.

According to Saint Michael’s, the Prime offer is fair and will help offset the state’s debt on the hospital; Prime has agreed to keep the hospital open at least five years and make significant capital improvements; and Prime has agreed to retain all employees and physicians in good standing at the time the sale is finalized.

The Navigant study covers five hospitals: Saint Michael’s, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and University Hospital in Newark; Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville; and East Orange General Hospital. Barnabas Health, the state’s largest hospital system, operates both Newark Beth Israel and Clara Maass.

The study also looks at three health centers: Jewish Renaissance Medical Center, Newark Community Health Centers and Newark Homeless Health Care, as well as Broadway House, a long-term-care facility.

Essex County Freeholder Rolando Bobadilla, whose district includes Saint Michael’s, said: “In this day and age, more people are being given access to health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Any deal for Saint Michael’s must include the requirement that the Medical Center be an available and affordable partner in the delivery of care to this community and the state and the Board of Directors must make that part of the negotiations. We are not sure that the long-term plans of Prime Healthcare Services fit that mold.”

“We have a heightened awareness of health care-related issues and have a vested interest in seeing that Saint Michael’s Medical Center is in the hands of someone who provides quality, accessible medical services,” said Richard Rohrman, chief executive of New Community Corporation. New Community Corporation, one of the largest community development organizations in Newark, is a provider of behavioral and mental health counseling, extended care services and clinical health services.


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