JERSEY CITY AND BEYOND - After more than a week of deliberations and closed-door meetings, a U.S. Bankruptcy judge ruled has awarded Jersey City's Christ Hospital to Hudson Hospital Holdco LLC, a for profit company that already owns Bayonne Medical center and Hoboken University Medical Center.
Judge Morris Stern made the decision today to award the financially strapped Christ Hospital to Holdco over a rival bid submitted by Community Healthcare Associates (CHA)/Liberty Health System. LibertyHealth currently owns Jersey City Medical Center.
For the past week, the fate for Christ Hospital has been tied up in a federal bankruptcy court in Newark before Judge Stern. Today's decision clears the way for Holdco to buy Christ Hospital, and will likely mean the nonprofit medical facility will become a for-profit hospital. This will leave Jersey City Medical Center and Palisades Medical Center as the only two remaining nonprofit hospitals in Hudson County.
Christ Hospital will remain an acute care facility, Holdco officials have vowed.
Last Friday the two entities were told to revise bids that were submitted to the bankruptcy court on March 15 after the hospital's creditors and trustees threw their support behind different bids. The creditors' committee last Wednesday backed the bid submitted by CHA/LibertyHealth System. The next day the hospital's board of trustees voted in support of the bid from Hudson Holdco.
This morning Judge Stern met with representatives from the creditors'
committee and the Board of Trustees to get their opinions of the revised bids. A representative from the state Dept. of Health and Senior Services was also expected to give Judge Stern an opinion of the revised proposals.
"Extending excellent healthcare services motivated [CHA/LibertyHealth System] to submit a bid to operate Christ Hospital as a not for profit organization," said Liberty spokesman Mark Rabson Tuesday afternoon after Stern made his decision to award Christ to Holdco. "The reasons Jersey City Medical Center submitted a bid is because we are committed to providing quality healthcare services for the long term. Our bid reflected our commitment to those with and without insurance while preserving jobs and assuring the long term success of Christ Hospital.
"Numerous community groups, various local leaders as well as many elected officials endorsed our proposal publicly. We thank them for their confidence and support. We know the community looked forward to our strategic partner Community Healthcare Associates purchasing the building with Jersey City Medical Center providing quality services in a manner as demonstrated in our downtown campus.
Everything we promised was consistent to the recommendations made by the State. The Jersey City Medical Center will continue to find additional ways to grow, continue to develop new services and earn additional quality and clinical awards. Our mission of 'Enhancing Life' and the resolve of our Board of Trustees, medical-dental staff, and employees has been strengthened by to the process we just completed."
Christ Hospital filed for bankruptcy last month after a sale agreement to a private health care company in California fell through. The hospital serves a large uninsured and indigent population and currently loses about $800,000 a month, according Christ CEO Peter Kelly.
"From the very beginning, the nurses were focused on saving the hospital, its services, and jobs. And I think we've done that," Jeanne Otersen, spokesperson for Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the union that represents 420 registered nurses and other workers at Christ Hospital, told the Reporter. "This is stage one of a process. Through the next stage is the regulatory process we will continue to push for the kinds of accountability that Holdco has agreed to."
Prior to the bankruptcy negotiations before Judge Stern HPAE had already reached tentative labor agreements with both bidders.
Holdco will still have to be approved by various state agencies, including the Dept. of Health and Senior Services. - E. Assata Wright