TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Ronald L. Rice which would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to provide written notification to local leaders when a hospital in their municipality files with the department to close was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.
“Recently, with the closing of Greenville Hospital in Jersey City, I’ve seen firsthand that time is of the essence when it comes to mobilizing the community to fight for a health care facility,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson. “Local leaders need to be given every chance to work to keep a hospital open if it serves a major need in the community, or prepare local residents for life after closure. This bill gives elected leaders ample warning to work with their constituents for a health care solution that meets the needs of the neighborhood.”
The bill, S-693, would require the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to provide written notification to all federal, State and local elected leaders when a health system in their district files an application with the Department for a certificate of need to close a hospital. The sponsors noted that prompt and early notification of a hospital’s fiscal issues give local leaders enough time to prepare their constituents for closure, or seek an alternative to keeping the facility open.
“We’ve seen in recent years an epidemic of hospital closings around the State, particularly in urban areas where these facilities serve the uninsured, and we need to give elected leaders a chance to represent the needs of their constituents,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “Every minute local leaders have to work to keep a hospital open or seek out some other solution for their constituents’ health care needs is precious, and requiring the Department of Health to notify local leaders of the early warning signs for closure is common sense. Mayors, council members, State legislators and congressmen and women have to deal with the healthcare fallout caused by a hospital closing its doors to the community, and should be afforded the courtesy to be proactive in finding solutions for the needs of the people they represent.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for review.