On Tuesday the long awaited Navigant report was made public. The report which had been initiated by the state Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, and can be used by the commission to approve the acquisition of two cash-starved hospitals in Essex County, Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark to Prime Healthcare Services, and the East Orange General to Prospect, both are large for-profit hospital chain from California purchasing hospitals in the state. The report makes recommendations to overhaul the heath delivery system in Newark and greater Newark area. The hospitals in the study included Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, East Orange General Hospital, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Saint Michael’s Medical Center and University Hospital, Newark.
The Navigant report analyst concludes an over supply of hospital beds in Newark-Essex County area with 1,495 beds, while population demand 1,271 are needed. What this means in financial terms that 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,” according to the report. ” This level of operating loss is clearly unsustainable and leads us to conclude that continuation of the status quo is not a financially viable or prudent option.” alarming recommendations highlighted in the report is to convert both St. Michaels hospital and East Orange memorial into Ambulatory care system only, and building an larger Acute care network between University hospital and Beth Israel respectively.
While Martin Bieber, East Orange General’s Interim President and CEO, declined to directly address the recommendation that the hospital should be converted into an ambulatory care facility. He stated, the hospital however, is already expanding services Navigant suggests are needed.
“We are proud to be entering into a partnership, pending state approvals, with Prospect Medical Holdings,” which ” as committed $84 million to invest in the hospital and the communities we service,” Bieber said. Prospect, a California-based for-profit hospital chain, announced plans to buy East Orange last year. “East Orange General is realigning Family Health services; expanding ambulatory care; coordinating integrated care with physicians and other providers; increasing access to outpatient care and better aligning services to the needs of the patients we serve.”
The report however, has been viewed by Save Saint Michael’s Coalition as a report designed solely to force the closure of the hospital. The coalition, which included many city and county officials, community groups along with the hospital leadership and staff, give a press conference yesterday, making their position known that they plan to fight the recommendations changing the hospital’s long existence in the community as an Acute Care facility serving the poor.
“We’re not going to stand down, we’re not going to sit down. We are going to fight!” said Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins.
“They don’t work! It’s a scam! And you know what’s going to happen if this facility turns to an ambulatory care center? You might as well put up a tombstone today because you’re going to be out of business,” said Assemblyman Tom Giblin.
“I’m very concerned about our employees — the 1,400 individuals, 900 of whom are in one of four unions,” said Saint Michael’s Medical Center President and CEO David Ricci.
“I’d ask the folks that did the Navigant study put a face on every word on your piece of paper, put a face on it. Put an employee on it, put a patient on it,” said District 1199J Union President Susan Cleary.
“Between the employees that come here and the patients that come here, it’s approximately over $5 million contributed to the local economy,” said health care union Executive Director Douglas Placa.
The report is expected to be one of the items the commissioner considers in reviewing the application by Prime Health Care to purchase Saint Michael’s. Supporters worry Navigant’s recommendations could cause the deal to fall through. The Health Department has divulged little to reporters. Today was no different.
The sale to Prime has also been questioned. New Jersey Citizen Action has been fighting to have commitments put in writing that the sale will keep the hospital open for 10 years and keep the same staffing and in-network insurance carriers.
“I would like to see an outcome that does indeed serve this community,” said India Hayes Larrier.
As more and more questions over the motives of this report continue to mount, the Save Saint Michael’s Coalition will meet next week urging stakeholders, community members and employees to join in their mission to fight.
Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka told NJBIZ in a statement: “We take the subject of health care in the city of Newark extremely seriously, regarding it as a public safety issue for our residents. That being said, we will have no comment on the Navigant report until we have fully reviewed this document and its conclusions.”
Additionally, Campaign to Protect Community Health Care, a consumer advocates and labor leaders that have opposed the sale of Saint Michael’s to Prime criticized the deal, arguing it would not guarantee the hospital would remain open for more than five years, questioning why Prime wouldn’t be responsible for paying off some of the hospital’s debt. The opposition group has said “The Navigant report independently verifies what our coalition has been saying – Newark hospitals need to collaborate to survive, not just compete,” according to the statement tonight from the “On this point, the analysis is crystal clear. Status quo operations are unsustainable, and the current proposed buyer of Saint Michael’s cannot turn the hospital around if their sole interest is competition and personal profit.”