Newark resident Myrlene Mondelus first experienced Saint Michael's Medical Center as a breast cancer patient in December 2016.
Her experience inspired her to want to become a hospital employee.
“From the moment I walked through the door to the moment I left, everyone was kind and open minded,” said Mondelus, who is hoping to get into nursing when she completes her studies from to Essex County College, but in the meantime is seeking to land a job in the hospital's housekeeping department.
“They made it so easy when I was scared," Mondelus said. "That’s why I would love more than anything to be a part of it.”
Mondelus was one of nearly 500 job seekers who came in search of open positions at Saint Michael's at a job fair today at Essex County College.
The job fair, which was filled to capacity, was open to both students of Essex County College majoring in health-related fields and residents of the community interested in a career in the health care profession.
"Saint Michael's is growing and as we add more services to the hospital, we need more staff," said John Regina, director of Human Resources at Saint Michael's. "Despite all the technological advances, hospitals are labor intensive. It takes dedicated, compassionate and competent healthcare workers to deliver the highest quality patient care services."
While Essex County College has hosted large job fairs in the past, this is the first time the county college has partnered with a single employer, said Mitra Choudhury, director of Training Inc., the career training institute run by Essex County College.
“We are trying to target specific employers that already have available jobs,” Choudhury said. “With large job fairs, it is difficult to track who got jobs. We will be looking to do these types of job fairs with other local employers going forward.”
The job fair attracted some 175 Essex County College students enrolled in the Division of Nursing & Allied Health, which offers academic programs and certificates of completion in numerous healthcare disciplines.
In addition to offering degrees in Nursing and Licensed Practical Nursing, the Allied Health department offers certificates in areas such as dental, dietary, physical therapy, radiography, respiratory, and vision care.
Choudhury said the college also decided to open the job fair to members of the local community. As a community college, she said, Essex County College is vested in the community and has always worked closely with the City of Newark in providing training and employment opportunities.
“It has always been our mission to help the community at large,” Choudhury said. “Helping residents get jobs fulfills that mission.”
Norma Gonzalez, senior economic development director for Newark Community Economic Development Corp., said she was thrilled that Saint Michael’s and Essex County College partnered to offer an exclusive job fair.
“This job fair helps Newark residents tremendously,” Gonzalez said. “We have many Newark residents graduating in the health allied field. As I walked around, I saw a lot of Newark residents who are getting some commitments. So this is a wonderful thing.”
Saint Michael’s has openings in nursing, rehabilitation services, finance, information technology, engineering, clinical laboratory, respiratory care, security and support services.
Ibn Ali, a South Ward resident who's been out of work for two years, came in search of a job in housekeeping. He said he worked at East Orange General Hospital for 13 years before being laid off when Prospect Medical Holdings took ownership of the hospital two years ago.
"I started at East Orange General as a housekeeping supervisor and worked my way up," Ali said. "When I heard about the job fair I said, 'I fit the criteria for everything. Let me go here and see what happens.' So I'm here to see if I can obtain a job. I'm just looking for opportunities to see if I can get in and be a part of the team. I heard it's a great place to work."
The growth of Saint Michael's comes just two years after a state-commissioned report by Navigant Consulting recommended that the hospital be closed and replaced with an acute care center because Newark had an abundance of hospital beds. It also comes less than 18 months after the hospital sought voluntary reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
Since then, the hospital has been sold to Prime Healthcare Services, which specializes in buying struggling hospitals and turning them around. Prime, which owns 44 hospitals in 14 states, has already invested $21 million into the hospital and plans to invest a total of $50 million by 2021.
"We are thrilled that so many people in the community are interested in becoming part of our long-term growth in the city," said Saint Michael's CEO Robert Iannaccone. "We were especially pleased with the high quality of job applicants who are hoping to become part of our team. With the additional staff that will be hired, we will have the ability to continue delivering compassionate, patient-centered healthcare to the community.”
Saint Michael’s, which is licensed for 358 beds, employs more than 1,250, nearly a third of whom live in Newark.
The Rev. Ronald Slaughter, the pastor of Saint James AME church and the chairman of the Saint Michael’s board, said the job fair is an indication that Saint Michael’s is committed to the community.
“Saint Michaels is thoroughly committed to helping Essex County and Newark become a better place economically and holistically by employing people who live in our communities,” Slaughter said. “Saint Michaels believes in Essex County and Newarkers.”
Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield Jenkins, who lead the charge on the City Council to keep the hospital open, said the rebirth of Saint Michael’s benefits not only the economy of the Central Ward, but the entire city and surrounding community.
“We fought to keep this hospital not only because it provides excellent health care for our community, but it also provides jobs for our residents,” Chaneyfield Jenkins said. “If Saint Michael’s had closed, it would have been devastating to the community. Instead, the community benefits because Saint Michael’s is open and thriving.”