Lower-cost health care for Secaucus?

Could have repercussions for community hospital

In an effort to trim municipal spending, Mayor Michael Gonnelli has announced plans to reduce the town’s health screening contract with Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, and instead use the services of a North Hudson health agency that services needy people in local towns.
For years, Secaucus has paid $68,000 to $70,000 each year to Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, located in town, to offer health screening services to residents who have limited access to health care. These screenings include tests for diabetes, high blood pressure, prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other health concerns.


“We are not ending our relationship with Meadowlands Hospital.” – Michael Gonnelli

Former hospital board delegate raises concerns

But former 3rd Ward Town Councilman and Deputy Mayor John Reilly, who for many years served as a delegate to the Meadowlands Hospital board of directors, raised concerns about Gonnelli’s plan.
“If you’re making a big cost savings for taxpayers, sometimes that’s the way to go. But that cost savings can hurt you in another way,” he said. “Small community hospitals like Meadowlands are in dire straits right now. And the reason is because they don’t get the support of the local communities that they serve.”
Hospitals have been closing across the country due to a combination of mismanagement, a lack of access to credit, investment losses, an increase in patients, a lack of reimbursement from insurance and Charity Care funds, and most recently, fallout from the recession.
“We have a community hospital in Secaucus, and that’s a great advantage to the town,” Reilly said. “Acute-care hospitals are very expensive to run and they need the support of the community. When you start taking revenue away from a hospital, you affect the hospital’s ability to stay in the community. If that hospital were to close, residents would be up in arms. So, I think they got to take a very serious look at this.”
The mayor, however, disagreed with Reilly’s assessment.
“We are not ending our relationship with Meadowlands Hospital,” Gonnelli responded. “Our [Emergency Medical Services] are still tied to Meadowlands, and like I said, we will still have a contract with them for services we can’t get through North Hudson Community Action.”

Greater presence in Secaucus

The new mayor said he is “determined” to move forward with this plan.
Gonnelli and Irizarry have already discussed once how the town might better access NHCAC services, and the two plan to meet in-person soon.
Irizarry said Gonnelli “has expressed an interest in us heightening our presence in Secaucus. Probably what we’ll do is offer screenings in Secaucus, then when health problems are uncovered, patients would be referred to a doctor at one of our nine health centers [outside of Secaucus].
“The mayor is pretty active on this and I commend him for that,” Irizarry said. “I think it’s great to use the resources you have at you disposal to save taxpayers money.” E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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