In a move that should have silenced critics, the New York State Health Planning Committee – the key state agency responsible for reviewing the transaction – unanimously endorsed Bayonne Medical Center’s plan to purchase St. Vincent’s Staten Island Hospital.
This clears the way for expected final approval by the New Jersey Department of Health.
BMC Chairman Herman Brockman hailed the approval as “more great news” for Bayonne Medical Center.
“This has been a wonderful month for Bayonne,” he said. “We opened our new state of the art Women’s Health Care Center. We earned the highest rating for heart attack care of any New Jersey hospital and we solidified our financial future with this strong new partnership.”
Brockman credited CEO Robert Evans and his management team for their efforts. “Rob and his entire team did a tremendous job making this project a reality. This is the culmination of nearly two years of hard work.”
Health Care officials in both New Jersey and New York are convinced that the new relationship will make both hospitals stronger financially and in the quality and level of patient care they offer. Both hospitals will complement each other’s areas of medical expertise and save money by sharing purchasing, planning and contracting costs.
“This new partnership secures the mission of BMC by providing it with a strong sister hospital to help us weather the economic storms that are ravaging other hospitals in the area,” said Evans. “It means that Bayonne Medical Center will be here continuing to serve the needs of Bayonne residents for decades to come.”
Private financing has already been arranged to fund a $40 million renovation program at the Staten Island hospital, which will be renamed Richmond University Medical Center. No Bayonne Medical Center funds are being used to finance the acquisition or any improvements to the New York hospital.
BMC’s plans were strongly supported by the medical leadership of the hospital, the entire Board of Trustees and a large majority of physicians and staff members.
“The people who opposed our plan never understood that it was all about making Bayonne Medical Center stronger and giving us the resources we need to enhance our patient care programs and services,” Brockman said.
Is the sale good for Bayonne?
While officials in Staten Island are jubilant about the purchase, partly they believe this will allow Staten Island to retain acute care services there, city officials in Bayonne as well as many residents have questioned whether or not, BMC can afford the make the purchase, and whether or not the purchase is being made at the expense of services in Bayonne.
Over the last year, BMC has shut down or trimmed several departments, laid off more than 100 workers and managers, and has suspended services to delivery room.
At a candle light protest, members of the Coalition to Save Bayonne Medical Center asked the hospital books be opened for examination in order that the public may feel more confident about the decision.
“We’re not saying that anyone is doing anything illegal, but we want to make certain that what is being done here will actually benefit Bayonne,” said Mary Jane Desmond, one of the spokespeople for the coalition.
The coalition has routinely claimed that services are being cut in Bayonne in order to make the financial record of BMC look better for the purchase.
Desmond and others claim the hospital has reduced staff and services, creating a greater burden on those workers still being asked to provide services at the hospital. In one released, the coalition claimed people are waiting longer for transportation as well as treatment. Even cafeteria service has diminished.
The committee, when reviewing the sale of St. Vincent’s said the prospects for the Staten Island hospital look good and the financing of the two hospitals would remain independent of each other.
The New Jersey State Health Department could approve BMC’s proposal as soon as early to mid-December.