JERSEY CITY, NJ - With coronavirus a growing concern, state, county, and local officials joined healthcare workers outside a Jersey City nursing home Monday to declare that they would seek to take the land of three area hospitals by eminent domain if a deal can’t be worked out to keep the healthcare facilities in Bayonne, Hoboken, and Jersey City open.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Alaris Health, which purchased the properties each of the hospitals stands on, is apparently holding out for a better price, in particular on the Hoboken property which officials say has a particularly high value due to its potential redevelopment potential.
While Fulop and others were extremely critical of the business practices of the owners of CarePoint, the current operators of the three hospitals, Alaris’ asking price risks voiding an agreement by Barnabas Health which wants to purchase the properties as well as take over operations at both the Hoboken hospital and Christ Hospital in Jersey City.
Alaris, Fulop said, wants a price based on market rate residential, far higher than Barnabas apparently is willing to spend. This impasse could lead the three municipalities: Bayonne, Jersey City and Hoboken, to condemn the land and resell it to Barnabas at a better rate.
“As I’ve said before, healthcare shouldn’t be about dollars and cents, it should be about common sense,” said Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, who was the first local official to launch the effort to protect the hospitals when word of their potential closure first surfaced in October.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla said his Administration, similar to actions taken in Bayonne and Jersey City, is in the process of putting zoning restrictions on the property that would require these sites to be used to provide medical services.
Meanwhile, Senator Brian Stack said that he and Senator Sandra Cunningham, along with Hudson County’s Assembly delegation, are posting legislation that would guarantee municipalities the ability to use eminent domain to take the property if a mutual agreement cannot be found between Alaris and Barnabas.
Bayonne officials have been in discussions with other health care providers to take over the Bayonne Medical Center, but fear that Alaris’ price could discourage this effort. Atlantic Health reportedly had considered taking over the Bayonne facility but has since backed out, sources have said.
Discussions are currently underway for with another operator, they added.
While also unhappy with a decision by CarePoint’s owners to take millions of dollars in profits out of the three hospitals prior to the announcement of a pending sale, Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise added that the important thing at the moment is to get all parties to come together to make sure these hospitals remain in operation.
“Closing hospitals is a bad idea and we will fight tooth and nail to make sure that doesn’t happen,” DeGise concluded.
CarePoint made a number of critical decisions that brought about the current situation, including selling the properties to a Texas real estate firm just after taking ownership of the three hospitals about a decade ago. This was done, sources have said, to generate desperately needed operating capital at the time.
Some officials now say they believe that the Texas firm became nervous about their investment late last year after CarePoint announced the sale and possible closing of the hospitals and sold the property Alaris.
Officials claim as many as 4,000 jobs, many of them union, could be lost if all three hospitals were to be shuttered.
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