TRENTON – The full Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Stack (D-Hudson) that would require hospitals to hold quarterly public board meetings with time set aside for public participation.
“Hospitals, especially those receiving taxpayer funding, should be accountable to the community members they serve,” said Senator Stack. “The board meetings required under this bill will ensure just that, giving residents more regular access to top hospital officials and providing them an opportunity to ask questions or voice concerns about care.”
Senator Stack introduced the bill (S-2020) early this month after discovering first-hand the difficulty of getting answers from a local hospital, which cancelled his mother’s radiation treatment for lung cancer the morning of her appointment. After making several phone calls, the senator learned he was unable – in his individual capacity – to address board members at Hackensack University Medical Center to inquire about hospital policy. Stack said he believes countless others are experiencing similar problems at hospitals across the state.
“I’m particularly concerned about some of our most vulnerable residents who have nowhere to turn when they encounter roadblocks in their attempt to get information,” said Senator Stack. “Attending a public board meeting would be a last resort, but at the very least it would provide a method of recourse for people who are stonewalled by those who are responsible for their health care.”
Current state law requires hospitals to hold just one public meeting a year. The bill would require all hospitals receiving state or federal funding to hold a quarterly public meeting of their boards of trustees. They would have to provide public notice of the meeting at least 14 days in advance by posting a written notice in a public location of the hospital and on the hospital’s Web site.
The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 36-3. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.