Health Care Consultant Recommends Dismantling Three Newark Hospitals

By Briana Vannozzi

“We’re not going to stand down, we’re not going to sit down. We are going to fight!” said Newark Central Ward Councilwoman Gayle Chaneyfield-Jenkins.

The gloves are off. Supporters of Saint Michael’s Medical Center are swinging. And recommendations made by a state commissioned health care consultant to effectively dismantle three of Newark’s five hospitals and turn them to ambulatory care centers is being met with fire.

“They don’t work! It’s a scam! And you know what’s going to happen if this facility turns to an ambulatory care center? You might as well put up a tombstone today because you’re going to be out of business,” said Assemblyman Tom Giblin.

The long awaited report, issued by Navigant Consulting, urges the state to do a major health care overhaul in Newark. Among the findings, it calls for an expansion of the now state-owned University Hospital in partnership with Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. But it also recommends turning East Orange General Hospital and Saint Michael’s strictly to outpatient facilities, while Clara Maas in Belleville would continue operations as usual.

“I’m very concerned about our employees — the 1,400 individuals, 900 of whom are in one of four unions,” said Saint Michael’s Medical Center President and CEO David Ricci.

“I’d ask the folks that did the Navigant study put a face on every word on your piece of paper, put a face on it. Put an employee on it, put a patient on it,” said District 1199J Union President Susan Cleary.

“Between the employees that come here and the patients that come here, it’s approximately over $5 million contributed to the local economy,” said health care union Executive Director Douglas Placa.

The report is expected to be used in the Health Department’s decision to approve a sale to Prime Healthcare Services, a California-based for-profit hospital chain. Supporters worry Navigant’s recommendations could cause the deal to fall through. The Health Department has divulged little to reporters. Today was no different.

“The [Navigant] report is a tool for use in making future decisions about the health care delivered to the Newark area. The report will be one of the items the commissioner considers in reviewing the application by Prime Health Care to purchase Saint Michael’s,” read a statement.

The sale to Prime has also been questioned. New Jersey Citizen Action has been fighting to have commitments put in writing that the sale will keep the hospital open for 10 years and keep the same staffing and in-network insurance carriers.

“I would like to see an outcome that does indeed serve this community,” said India Hayes Larrier.

As more and more questions over the motives of this report continue to mount, the Save Saint Michael’s Coalition will meet next week urging stakeholders, community members and employees to join in their mission to fight.