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Let's not rush St. Mary deal
Friday, December 15, 2006
Letters to the EditorThe Jersey Journal
The first reality check in the struggle to save St. Mary Hospital is at hand. It is the ordinance now before the City Council which, if approved, will put the full faith and credit of the City of Hoboken in a guarantee of a $52 million bond issue in support of the hospital. The language in the ordinance is astoundingly clear: "the City shall be unconditionally and irrevocably obligated to pay the principal of and interest on the (bond) and the City shall be unconditionally and irrevocably obligated to levy ad valorem taxes upon all the taxable property within the City for the payment thereof." (Ordinance for The Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority Bonding, Section 1)
City Council President Richard DelBoccio quite rightly pulled the ordinance from the Dec. 6 council agenda in order to have time to obtain a review of and opinion on the bond issue from the state Local Finance Review Board. This would be, to our knowledge, the first independent look at the structure of the bond issue. We fear, however, that unless Mr. DelBoccio receives the support of a majority of the council members that pressure will be applied to move quickly and the bond issue will be back on the City Council agenda on Wednesday Dec.20. It should not happen.
Why the rush? Cannot Hoboken be given more time to examine the issue and to get responses to unanswered questions? Why couldn't the bond issue be supported by a lien on the hospital property itself rather than with the city's guarantee? Why must there be a guarantee at all? A bond advisor present at one of the Hospital Authority Board meetings noted under questioning that it is possible a bond issue could be financed without a guarantee. The effect would be about a 2.5 percent increase in the bond rate (from 5 to 7.5 percent) and a longer time to process the issue. But, it could be done.
The Hospital Authority's Business Plan notes that St. Mary is not sufficiently compensated for care given to the underinsured and the uninsured that use the ER and the Family Health Center. Reimbursement comes from federal funds called Disproportionate Share (DSH). St. Mary provides care for approximately 32,000 ER patients a year with one-third coming in under Medicaid and over one-third uninsured, leaving less than one-third paying full cost.
The hospital provides a "safety net" for patients from Union City, Weehawken, West New York, North Bergen as well as Hoboken. Isn't there some way that these other cities could be tapped to pay a portion of their residents' care? Even though the hospital will receive $15.8 million in improved DSH funds, those will be "reduced or eliminated" in about three years (Hospital Plan). Could the Hudson County Improvement Authority be a source for assistance in spreading out the unreimbursed care? If a bond guarantee is absolutely necessary, could the HCIA provide at least a portion of the guarantee, thereby sharing some of the costs with other municipalities?
We all want the hospital to survive. We all want to be supportive. The Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition urges that the council keep the bond ordinance off its agenda until the Local Finance Review Board has delivered its review and comments. The QLC puts forth questions as a way to possibly open the way to revisit plans that have been made in haste to meet a Jan. 1, 2007 deadline (imposed by Bon Secours?). In the rush to meet this deadline the City Council has not even seen the terms of the contract that will be offered to Harvey Holzberg to operate the hospital, nor has it seen the details of the agreement for the city to take ownership of the hospital. These are two critical pieces.
The council is faced with a momentous and far reaching decision. Please give Hoboken a break so that the council may make decisions based on knowledge, not pressure. We have to make certain that Hoboken's eyes are wide open.
BOARD MEMBERS HOBOKEN QUALITY OF LIFE COALITION, INC.
The Writer (Maureen Sullivan) really nails it by getting to the point and whacking the Council's and Roberts. More Letters like this may just slow them down.Hoboken Reporter, December 3, 2006
When the mayor decided to save St. Mary Hospital, he didn't suggest a referendum in which the citizens would decide whether or not to foot the bill. Instead, the issue is now in the hands of our elected representatives on the city council.
So let me directly address the city council members: In your hearts, you know this is wrong. You know that you are getting us, the taxpayers of Hoboken, in too deep. You know that you don't know enough about hospital funding, Medicare reimbursements, insurance schemes, or the future of the medical industry to make a sound decision. Admit it, you have a hard time deciphering your own health-care plan. You are buying a failing hospital and hoping and wishing and praying that the people you hire don't run it into the ground like the folks at UMDNJ did to that hospital.
Oh, that's right! You have a signed off on hiring the former chairman of that disgraced, corruption-ridden institution to run the new Hoboken University Medical Center.
The argument from those with a vested interest is that they will modernize it and more high-paying patients will come! Isn't the state of the art Jersey City Medical Center already drowning in red ink? Where do the young moms go to have their babies? Overlook in Summit. Where do cancer patients go? Sloan-Kettering. Need orthopedic surgery? Go where the Mets go, to the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. We are too close to the nation's top medical facilities to make this work.
Nine members of the public are about to saddle 40,000 of us with a debt-ridden, out-dated, underused hospital. Ask yourselves why. Is it because Dave Roberts said to? This is the same mayor who wants to eliminate four of you from the council. He believes buying St. Mary's is worth the risk: the risk of putting every taxpayer on the hook for millions of dollars. Do you? Stop listening only to the people who have something to gain and start listening to those who have a lot to lose.
You know this is a softhearted but wrong-headed solution. You know you don't feel comfortable taking on this burden. You know this is trouble. You will be wishing for a return to minor-league problems, like the automated garage debacle.
This is the biggest decision you as a city council member will make on our behalf. The hospital's $130 million budget makes it more than the city and school budgets combined. Take your time, do your homework, search your conscience. Do the right thing.
Jersey Journal - November 17, 2006
Jersey Journal 11/10/2006
Jersey Journal , 9/1/2006
Jersey Journal, October 4, 2006
Agenda of the Hoboken Municipal Hospital - meeting 10/25/2006 ---- check out the budget.
See budget line item: Hospital Organization Costs $320,000.....
This hospital may become the "great sucking sound" as it pulls down the taxpayers of Hoboken...
Much still unclear, but mayor and gov report 'commitment'
Thursday, April 27, 2006
By JARRETT RENSHAWJERSEY JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
HOBOKEN - City Hall may soon be getting into the hospital business.
In the wake of news that a proposed deal with University of
Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to take over
"If I were a betting guy, I would say there is better than a
50/50 chance we'll get through this," said Corzine, a Hoboken
"I'm as certain as I could be that we're going to maintain our hospital," Roberts said after the meeting.
But Roberts and Corzine could offer no specifics about how the
city, which struggled to balance its own budget this year,
"This is not a subsidy . The city is not, in any way, going to suffer from economic difficulties from this proposal," Roberts said, adding he couldn't provide any information about the proposal due to pending negotiations.
City officials said Bon Secours Health System, the private
Catholic health care system based in
However, it's unclear as to whether the city would ultimately
have to pay Bon Secours to buy the hospital
City officials said they're also still trying to determine how
the city would operate the hospital - whether it should, for
The potential city takeover would still have to clear a number of
state bureaucratic hurdles, but a
Corzine told the packed house he supports the city's proposal and
promised to help find additional state
"We do not have a plan in place today, what we have is a
commitment from a group of public officials to
In January, officials with Bon Secours submitted a certificate of need to the state, saying it can no longer afford to operate the hospital.
Newhouse News Service staff writer Angela Stewart contributed to this report.
Hospital 'miracle worker' tapped for duty
Thursday, April 27, 2006
By JARRETT RENSHAWJERSEY JOURNAL STAFF WRITER
HOBOKEN - If the city does indeed take over the beleaguered St. Mary hospital, it will be up to Harvey Holzberg to turn it around.
Calling him a "miracle worker," city officials say Holzberg has a
long track record of curing the financial
"He's turned around three hospitals, and I am optimistic that he
can do the same here," said Hoboken
Holzberg retired last year as the president and chief executive officer of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where he served for 15 years.
Holzberg was also president and chief executive officer of Jersey City Medical Center for six years. Before that, he was senior vice president of administration at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn.
Asked about his preliminary preview of St. Mary's situation, Holzberg said: "We need to find ways to get more money from the state and we need to offer a better alternative to people who are now going to Manhattan to get treatment."
Holzberg refused to say whether layoffs would be part of the strategy, but he did provide some observations.
"Up until now, I can proudly say that in my three decades of experience, I have never been involved in layoffs," he said.
St. Mary staffers hear 2, cheer, but want specifics
Thursday, April 27, 2006
By SIMONE CUMMINGJOURNAL STAFF WRITER
HOBOKEN - About 200 medical staff packed into a conference room at St. Mary Hospital yesterday initially heaved a collective sigh of relief, then burst into applause after hearing Mayor David Roberts and Gov. Jon S. Corzine announce they'll work together to save the financially ailing hospital.
But they also left wondering how much longer it would take before the details of the plan would be announced, and exactly what the outcome would be.
Dr. Tom Azzolini was the first in the audience to stand up and announce the staff members want to save their hospital.
"We are flexible and we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep it open," he said. "I think I speak for everyone here when I say we are not ashamed to say that we are desperate."
Dr. Barbara Pearlmutter followed, demanding specifics on the new plan for staff who felt sidelined.
"We need more than we're going to have plan A, B, C and D that we're working on," she said. "We need something tangible. Give us something we can sink our teeth into.
"We have people here who don't know what they should do. Should they look for another job at another hospital? We want to stay here - help us do that."
After the meeting, Nurse Janette Cucchiara said she was relieved to hear from Roberts and Corzine.
"I feel much better that we have a lot of powers-that-be on our side," she said. "I have been here 30 years and believe the hospital will go on another 30."