Hudson County’s diagnosis How seven local hospitals attempt to stay in fair condition

The local area recently has been part of a nationwide trend in seeing urban hospitals close or reinvent themselves, due to insufficient reimbursements for the uninsured and underinsured, and competition from specialty clinics.

But even as local hospitals become more competitive, a report from Gov. Jon Corzine’s appointed Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources says New Jersey has too many hospital beds, especially in the northeastern part of the state.

The report attributes the surplus of hospital beds throughout the state to a declining average length of stay for patients, combined with “relatively stable or slowly increasing use rates.”

“Those of us in the healthcare field have known for some time that many of our hospitals are in serious financial trouble, Hudson County being no exception,” said Peter Kelly, the CEO and president of Christ Hospital in Jersey City.

But Christ Hospital is one of the area’s remaining hospitals that for right now seems to be in stable condition.

Not so with another Jersey City hospital.

Last month, a state panel agreed with the owners of Greenville Hospital in Jersey City that the hospital should close or become a center catering to specific types of medical conditions. While the owners have cited financial hardship, Jersey City politicians have fought to keep the hospital open.

On the other hand, a once ailing hospital, Bayonne Medical Center, recently finalized its sale to a new health care company.

And St. Mary Hospital in Hoboken turned itself around financially in the span of one year, after being purchased by the city becoming Hoboken University Medical Center and forming affiliations with a university. HUMC and is going strong in the new year with advances like privatized, hotel-like rooms.

Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus, Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, and Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City are also providing new services.

Below is a more detailed look at how Hudson County hospitals are resting national healthcare threats to their metaphorical beds.

Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center

Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in Secaucus is one of three hospitals owned by LibertyHealth – the other two being Greenville and Jersey City Medical. The 230-bed facility is located on the banks of the Hackensack River.

In order to attract the most patients, Meadowlands will soon construct a new modern emergency medical facility, doubling the size of its current emergency room. CEO of Liberty Health Joseph Scott says the new facility will offer patients enhanced comfort via patient privacy and key safety elements.

“We’re among the top 10 percent in patient rehabilitation services,” said Scott, adding, “We’re an all-private-room hospital. We have a distinct advantage with the level of privacy we provide.”

In addition to promoting endoscopic disectomys to members in the community – a minimally invasive procedure that has relieved over 700 patients of chronic back pains – the hospital also enjoys the benefits of its new Siemens 64-slice CT scanner.

Christ Hospital, Jersey City

Jersey City’s Christ Hospital is among one of the most progressive healthcare facilities in the area, despite citing a $5 million shortage of Charity Care reimbursements.

Located on 176 Palisade Ave., the 134-year-old hospital will see the addition of several new investments for 2008.

“During the past three years, we have put together a well-managed strategic plan, which concentrates our efforts on providing state-of-the-art care and technology in programs like interventional radiology, cardiology, cancer and women’s services,” said CEO of Christ Hospital Peter Kelly.

Those women services will be carried throughout the year at the 381-bed facility which is constructing brand new maternity and pediatrics units, due to open in spring.

In addition, the hospital is expanding its services to high-risk expecting moms by offering special programs in its Antenatal Testing Unit (ATU). The ATU will feature early screenings for mothers in the first 11 to 13 weeks and can detect 40 percent of heart defects, other anomalies, and perinatal risks. Also, fetal echocardiograms will allow a more intensive, detailed study of a baby’s heart as opposed to traditional pregnancy ultrasounds performed by obstetricians.

With a 26-percent increase in admissions resulting in 1,247 births in 2007, expansion of these services will play a key role in serving expecting Hudson County mothers, along with the team of over 40 pediatricians. A new pediatric unit will house five private rooms, six semi-private rooms, a new treatment area, a new playroom, and a lounge, all protected by a modernized security system.

Christ Hospital has achieved a five-star rating for clinical excellence in maternity care from HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent healthcare ratings company, and it has also ranked in the top 10 percent of all hospitals in the nation for maternity care.

Palisades Medical Center

Located on Hudson County’s southern waterfront in North Bergen, Palisades Medical Center is enjoying the benefits of new partnerships and programs at its 202-bed acute care facility.

Palisades Medical, a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, announced in January its new clinical affiliation agreement with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) and New Jersey Medical School (NJMS).

The dual partnership will allow for students to lend additional support to medical personnel in order to cater to the nearly 350,000 residents of Hudson and Bergen counties the hospital serves.

During February, Palisades also officially unveiled its new Continence Center, a facility that treats women who are experiencing problems with their urinary tracts and/or pelvic floors.

Palisades Medical Center recently earned an exemplary review by the Joint Commission of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

They also operate the Harborage in North Bergen, a 245-bed rehabilitation center and nursing home.

Jersey City Medical Center

Jersey City Medical Center is a 361-bed acute care facility residing on a 15-acre campus on Grand Street, a stone’s throw from Liberty State Park.

According to president and CEO of LibertyHealth Joseph Scott, the hospital is expecting to break ground on a new medical office plaza behind the hospital in the spring.

“We’re currently in the process of a demographic study to see what [services] Hudson County residents will need over the next five to 15 years,” said Scott. Jersey City Medical Center is the only Level 2 trauma center and offers the only open-heart surgery program in Hudson County. It is also the only hospital in Hudson County that can treat babies born under 34 weeks of age and other high-risk pregnancies.

Recently, the hospital announced an affiliation agreement with the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center to extend perinatal and neonatal care.

Hoboken University Medical Center

It’s been a little over a year since the city of Hoboken purchased the once-suffering St. Mary Hospital. After that, it turned a profit of $10 million for the first time last year.

In January, the new Hoboken University Medical Center adopted a new technology, Premier’s Safety Surveillor, that would protect patients and staff from potential infection outbreaks via an e-mail and paging system. HUMC is the only hospital in Hudson County using this technology.

Late last year, the 328-bed facility, which is New Jersey’s oldest continuing hospital, broke ground on a new Emergency Department. The $13.6 million project is expected to open in early 2009 and will double its current capacity.

The current facility is then expected to be converted into a low-risk catheterization area.

In addition to 12-hour in room dining service, HUMC is also adding 100 “Smart Beds,” beds lower to the floor. They are equipped with a pressure relief type mattress preserving patient’s skin, and have a three-level alarm system that will alert caregivers about patient movements.

“Being in a hospital is distressing enough, so we want to make sure our patients are as comfortable as possible during their stay at Hoboken UMC,” said Ellen Refowitz Interim Chief Nursing Officer.

Greenville Hospital, Jersey City

The biggest backlash of the state’s report was felt by residents of Greenville in Jersey City who are expecting the closing of their beloved Greenville Hospital, a 100-bed acute care facility located on Kennedy Blvd. at the southern end of Jersey City.

LibertyHealth has wanted to close the hospital since April 2007, citing a $3 million per year deficit.

At a meeting on Feb. 7 in Ewing Township, the state Health Planning Board unanimously voted to allow LibertyHealth to close Greenville’s doors. The decision was then “recommended” to the state’s Health Commissioner Heather Howard. Howard ultimately has the final say on whether the hospital closes or not and has 120 days to decide.

At press time, Howard had not yet made a decision.

In addition, a company has offered to buy the hospital.

“We’ve had an offer for the hospital, and we’re pursuing that right now,” said CEO Joseph Scott. “If that works out, it would be great.” However, a spokesman for LibertyHealth John McKeegan, said it is “premature to call it a serious offer.”

Bayonne Medical Center

Some have appropriately called the sale of the Bayonne Medial Center a “miracle.” The sale was only recently announced after the hospital declared bankruptcy this time last year due to reportedly losing nearly $600,000 a week.

One year and $3 million later, IJKG Opco LLC is the new owner of the 120-bed acute care facility.

Though U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Morris Stern approved the sale in December, it was only finalized in early February.

The miracle of the hospital sale lies not only in keeping a community hospital open and saving 1,000 hospital jobs, but that six million saving graces came from the city via bonds in order to keep the hospital afloat until they found a buyer.

Though the hospital will not repay the $6 million, the sale puts BMC on the tax rolls where the city will see $900,000 in revenue from additional taxes.

It was also announced that BMC will receive funds totaling $487,000 for a new electronic medical records system from a new bill secured by Congressman Albio Sires.

Nicolas Millan can be reached at


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