BAYONNE, NJ - Slightly more than a decade after Bayonne Medical Center was saved from closing, local officials, led by Mayor Jimmy Davis, have once again sounded the alarm to help prevent what the city’s leader called an “impending health crisis.”
As previously reported, Davis said he first learned that CarePoint Health, the owner of the local hospital that has provided care to generations of local residents for over 100 years, was in the midst of a transaction with RWJ Barnabas Health on Thursday, October 17.
Just four days later he marshaled four of the five members of the Bayonne City Council, Bayonne’s three state legislators, County Executive Tom DeGise, and local labor leaders to let it be known that any effort to shutter the hospital would have to go through him.
With Election Day just over a week away, the four candidates vying for the First Ward council seat have also weighed in on the matter, sharing with TAPinto Bayonne their thoughts and proposals for the future of the hospital, and the land it currently sits on.
Among the four is Paul Hagdorn who said that he is concerned about the loss of tax revenues to the city if a new provider decides to return the hospital to a non-profit status.
“The non for profit is tax exempt and the city has to challenge their tax-exempt status,” he said.
“Usually they settle and pay a much lesser amount. If this happens in Bayonne, we would have another huge tax hole to plug.”
He vowed to fight that sort of arrangement but admitted that the hospital issue is a perplexing one.
“For profit and the costs are off the chart but they pay taxes. Not for profit may bring health care costs down, but also add a huge tax hole,” he said. “I would fight 100 percent to keep a hospital there and would vote as a councilman against any change in zoning to have residential development. We need that hospital for the city of Bayonne.”
Seeking to hold on to his seat is Neil Carroll III, who stood by Davis’ side at the press conference and has also vowed to continue to work alongside him in demanding that a full-service hospital remain in Bayonne.
“Jimmy Davis has sounded the alarm, and we are going to fight to keep a hospital operating here,” Carroll said. “We also need to be worried about the human cost of this hospital, with respect to the jobs that could be lost. Thousands of Bayonne residents power this hospital, and at the same time save the lives of many more.”
Candidate John R. Cupo, said the current hospital site has outlived its usefulness, and suggested allowing the property to be sold for development while pushing to have a new facility constructed, possibly on the former Military Ocean Terminal.
“We could build one about the same size as the Jersey City Medical Center has in downtown Jersey City,” he said. “We should get the Port Authority to donate three acres of land. The new hospital can be for-or-non-profit.”
Unlike a previous threatened closure which current First Ward Councilman Gary LaPelusa intervened in to help prevent, when the hospital was under threat of imminent closure, Cupo said it would likely take two or three years to phase out the existing hospital, giving local officials time to formulate a new hospital plan.
More critical of CarePoint Health is Peter Franco who offered that the for-profit hospital has not been as big a boon in maintaining affordable healthcare for local residents as is being let on.
“When the mayor says we deserve access to affordable healthcare I agree, but what he doesn’t seem to comprehend is if it’s unaffordable and refuses to accept all insurance in Bayonne than it’s not accessible,” Franco said. “I empathize with potential job loss and the 20,000 emergency room visits per year show a clear need for a hospital, maybe not a hospital whose management puts its business interests before our community.”
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