Senator Cites Lack of Local Health Care Access as Primary Reason to Keep Hospital Open
EAST WINDSOR – At a meeting of the State Health Planning Board today at which the board voted to recommend the closure of Greenville Hospital, Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham said that the closing of the hospital in Jersey City will leave the community without “access to adequate, timely and necessary health care.
Senator Cunningham noted that, even though the State Health Planning Board decided to allow Greenville Hospital to close, the Commissioner of Health has 120 days to make a final decision. She said that she will continue to make the case for the facility to the Commissioner.
“Despite its economic problems, Greenville hospital operates as a valuable first point of care for so many Jersey City residents,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “A hospital’s worth cannot be judged solely by the dollars it brings in, but by the people it serves. I implore State regulators and hospital administrators to find some alternative to shutting the doors on Greenville Hospital, so that the facility can continue to provide the community with access to local, high quality health care.”
Senator Cunningham was joined at today’s meeting by Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, Jersey City Councilwoman Viola Richardson, and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Kabili Tayari, as well as Hudson County Freeholder Chairman Jeffrey Dublin, Freeholder William O’Dea and three busloads of concerned citizens who oppose the hospital’s closure.
Greenville Hospital, which is owned by LibertyHealth System, Inc., has been a part of the Jersey City community for more than 100 years. In October of last year, LibertyHealth applied to the State Department of Health and Senior Services for a certificate of need, requesting to close Greenville Hospital based on the hospital’s poor financial state. The hospital declined an offer from the City of Jersey City to provide a $1.5 million loan, which would have allowed the hospital to continue operations for six months while the hospital administration sought a buyer.
“Local officials in Jersey City and Hudson County recognize the impact that closing Greenville Hospital will have on city residents, and are doing what they can to keep the hospital afloat,” said Senator Cunningham. “Unfortunately, hospital administrators seem to have made up their mind about the fate of Greenville Hospital, and the fact that LibertyHealth declined the assistance of Jersey City to keep the hospital running suggests that they are trying to expedite the hospital closure.”
Senator Cunningham added that LibertyHealth administrators note that Jersey City Medical Center, which is also owned by the hospital system, is approximately three miles from Greenville Hospital, and that patients can go to the other facility for their healthcare needs. However, reports indicate that timely health care for patients in ambulatory care may mean the difference between life and death. For example, the mortality rate for heart attacks greatly increases if patients cannot get to a hospital within eight minutes of the onset of symptoms – and with traffic patterns in Jersey City, a 3-mile trip may take much longer.
Earlier this year, the Governor’s Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources issued a report detailing the hospital crisis facing New Jersey. The report cited unfunded charity care to uninsured State residents as one of the biggest contributors to the financial problems facing so many health care facilities in the State, and noted that 20 hospitals in the Garden State have closed over the last 10 years, with three more hospitals – including Greenville – scheduled to close in the coming year.
“The Commission’s report offers a rationalization for hospital closure, but was light on offering solutions to end the health care crisis,” said Senator Cunningham. “Closing hospitals will not alleviate the economic impact of unfunded charity care, but rather, will simply leave the State’s poorest residents without the immediate care that they need. Balancing the financial needs of hospitals and the health care needs of residents will not be an easy task, but before we let one more facility close, we owe it to the State residents in greatest need to do everything in our power to come up with a better model of meeting the health care needs of the uninsured.”