Mayor Joseph Doria - who can also claim birth in Bayonne along with former mayors James Donovan, Alfred Brady and Francis Fitzpatrick - said he was very concerned by the closing.
"This is not good for Bayonne," he said.
BMC officials said this move is being made to better allocate hospital resources to benefit the most patients. "I fought hard to preserve this service since first arriving in Bayonne, but market trends, soaring malpractice costs and a dwindling number of OBs have caused patients to large, well-financed first centers around the state," said Robert Evans, president and chief executive officer of BMC. "This concentration is likely to continue regarding OB in New Jersey and around the county."
BMC is apparently looking to trim costs, and the maternity department is one area that costs millions to operate but does not have the number of patients yearly to cover these costs.
"In 2006, we project to deliver only 120 children annually, at a cost of millions of dollars in labor, insurance and supplies," said Dr. Marco Pelosi II, chief of OB and a long time OB/BYN in Bayonne. "This compares to programs around the state that deliver thousands of children each year." "This is," he said, "a sad reality we must face if we are to avoid reducing many other programs, services and jobs at Bayonne Medical Center."
Pelosi said he has worked directly with Evans and the administration to develop the maternity services, but costs and market forces have posed too great an obstacle.
"Hopefully, these same market forces will one day shift and make it possible for community hospitals to sustain a viable OB service."
Bayonne Medical Center, which is seeking to purchase St. Vincent's Hospital on Staten Island, will send expectant mothers there instead.
State was notified in July
The hospital submitted a 60-day notice to the State Department of Health and Human Services in late July, although prenatal patients are already being directed to St. Vincent's in anticipation of the change.
Although the change has been a concern of many residents, and the talk in many diners and other public gathering places, hospital officials said the change is the result of "a bleak outlook" nationally for community hospitals, noting that in California, hospitals are closing at an alarming rate and that according some experts, pressure is mounting on even more hospitals to close. One study shows that of the 440 hospitals that closed in the United States during the 1990s, 340 were short-term acute care facilities like Bayonne Medical Center.
Gov. Jon Corzine recently asked for a commission to look into possibly closing as many as 25 hospitals in New Jersey. The commission would look at where such facilities are located and how their area of operations may conflict with other nearby hospitals.
"A state sponsored study found that among virtually all of New Jersey's acute care facilities, there was been a significant financial decline," a statement from BMC said.
The report by the Center for Studying Health System change reported that larger hospitals are expanding services into suburban areas of Northern New Jersey while smaller hospitals often suffer financially and in some cases have even closed.
The report, according to the BMC statement, lists several internal and external factors, among which is the high level of staff as compared to the volume of patients served. Externally, managed care programs, federal budget changes in 1997, and service to uninsured patients have all decreased small hospitals' ability to cover costs.
According to statistics issued by BMC, admissions have dropped by 25 percent since 2004.
"This translates into millions of dollars of reduced revenue for the hospital," the statement said.
Recent changes in admission criteria and regulatory adjustments that allow skilled nursing facilities to offer inpatient services previously offered at BMC have made the financial situation worse.
BMC officials said that strategic planning efforts are designed to offset many of these problems. One example of this was the launching of the BMC Vascular Institution in 2001 which combined with its highly developmental department of cardiology generates revenue for the medical center to offset lost revenue elsewhere. BMC also has plans to establish a skilled nursing facility by the end of 2006 to help stabilize admissions.
But even with these changes, revenues continue to decline.
Medicare, BMC official noted, changed its rate index starting in October resulting in more than $1 million less per year for BMC.
"Community hospitals are truly under siege from powerful forces which affect our costs and reimbursements," Evans said.
These forces threatened the medical center's very existence.
BMC, he said, has combined a vision of community needs with a strategic planning in order to allocate scarce resources to meet the needs in the community as well as preserving BMC's economic viability.
"More often than not, this means making very difficult decisions year in and year out," he said.
One such decision involves the reduction in the medical center's workforce, cutting 30 administrators and possibly more than 100 other staff members.
This was one of the mechanisms for reducing costs and increasing revenues the medical center development since defaulting on its bond seven years ago. Such moves will hopefully prevent the hospital being forced to close like some many other hospitals have.
"There have already been two hospitals closing in our country, and there will be a statewide analysis done to advise more in the future," Evans said. "In less than five years, there will probably be three or four acute care hospitals in all of Hudson County, unless there is a dramatic change in hospital funding."
But Evans predicted BMC would not only survive, but will thrive in the future.
"BMC has always made the difficult decisions, and have continued to act decisively and evolve clinically," he said, bolding predicting that the hospital established in 1888 would survive into the future. "This organization will be serving the residents of this community when it celebrates its bi-centennial."
Contact Al Sullivan at email@example.com