BAYONNE, NJ - Local, county, and state officials were joined by union leaders and more than two dozen staff and residents to “sound the alarm” on what Mayor Jimmy Davis called an impending “major health crisis” in Bayonne.
The usually mild-mannered Davis held nothing back demanding that hospital officials at both Bayonne Medical Center and RWJ Barnabas Health, provide answers to reports that the largest health care delivery system in the state is set to purchase, and subsequently close, the local hospital that has provided care to generations of local residents for over 100 years.
According to Davis, he received a phone call on Thursday alerting him to the impending transaction and immediately sprung into action. With four out of five members of the Bayonne City Council, the full complement of legislators from the 31st District, and both local and state leaders of HPAE, the union that represents more than 850 employees inside the hospital, Davis demanded that he immediately be given “a seat at the table” in any further discussions that impact the health of the community he leads.
“If you want to close this hospital,” Davis said, “you’ll have to come through me.”
Davis went on to recall that when RWJ/Barnabas initially opened their care center on Broadway just over two years ago he was assured by Joe Scott, Executive Vice President, Health Care Transformation, RWJ/Barnabas Health, the system that has reach as far south as Mercer County, that if Bayonne Medical Center ever became available for sale they’d buy it to fill their demand for additional patient beds.
In past days, Davis said, the hospital executive said that no deal was imminent, but failed to refute the existence of ongoing discussions.
Citing statistics that Bayonne Medical Center received 27,000 ER visits in 2018, nearly 74 a day, Assemblyman Nicholas Chiarvalloti, offered that the facility was absolutely needed. “With the growth of Bayonne,” under Mayor Davis’ leadership the state legislator added, “we can not afford to lose our hospital.”
Hudson County Executive DeGise also spoke, reflecting on hospital closures he has fought, two in Jersey City and one in Kearny, during his time in office. “This is more than just a rumor, there are absolutely negotiations going on,” he said, adding that the failure to include local officials amount to a “betrayal to the people of Bayonne.”
Both John Bauer, president of HPAE 5185, and Barbara Rosen, vice president of the statewide nurses and medical professional union, also spoke, demanding transparency in any future negotiations. “We have stood up against for profit business owners in the past,” Bauer said, “and we never back down from efforts to care for our patients.”
Rosen was even more clear in her demands that include a full assessment on the impact the care delivered at Bayonne Medical Center has on the community, public sessions to all residents to be heard, and that all regulatory and statutory requirements be met.
By law hospital closures must be approved by the New Jersey Department of Health, a time consuming process that at the least will ensure care in the near term, Davis said, and one, he said he was told by representatives in Governor Phil Murphy’s office, has not been discussed to date.
On hand to lend her support to efforts to protect the facility was lifelong resident Pam O’Donnell who was a patient there continuously from May 2014 until December 2014 as she fought cancer. The availability of care so close to home made all the difference, she shared with TAPinto Bayonne. Pointing to a third floor window O’Donnell reflected that when she was sick her late husband and daughter, as well as the couple’s second daughter, would have tea parties on the hospital’s lawn as their way of connecting when they couldn’t be with the family matriarch in person.
Speaking of the nurses that provided care during her battle, O’Donnell promised that she is “going to fight for them the way they fought for me.”
CarePoint issued in the minutes after the event broke up said that while the system with hospitals in Bayonne, Jersey City, and Hoboken are “in the process of seeking a strategic partnership with another healthcare system, it’s premature at this time to share additional details.”
“The goal has been and remains,” Jennifer Morrill a spokeswoman for CarePoint said, is to have hospitals that “continue delivering excellent care to the community.”
Citing the nearly 17,500 visits to the Jersey City Medical Center Satellite Emergency Department that they have operated on Broadway since 2017 as a part of their "longstanding history of providing outstanding care to the residents of Bayonne," a subsequent statement from RWJBarnabas Health said that they, too, are in "ongoing discussions with hospitals and healthcare systems to provide the finest care to our communities" but would not comment further until there is additional information to share.
* Editor's Note- This article as updated at 9:40 p.m. to reflect comments from RWJ Barnabas Health
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