As protestors representing the Coalition to Save Bayonne Medical Center marched outside, the BMC Board members announced the closing of the psychiatric transition unit, which will result in patients being sent to other institutions if in need of admission and the possible loss of additional jobs.
Meanwhile, officials from the newly established corporate parent of BMC - Bridge Regional Health System - cut the ribbon on the recently purchased St. Vincent's Hospital (renamed Richmond University Medical Center) on Staten Island.
On Jan. 9, protesters that included members of the union representing hospital workers renewed their demand that the board of directors at the hospital open their books to public scrutiny.
With a commitment from State Senator and Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria to seek an independent review, the protestors were rewarded on Jan. 10, when Board President Herman Brockman signed an agreement that would pay up $25,000 for an audit of the hospital's finances.
During a meeting held at Mayor Doria's offices that included leaders of the Coalition to Save Bayonne Hospital and the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, Brockman agreed to an independent financial review of the hospital's finances to be conducted by Jim Lawler of Healthcare Consulting, Inc.
JPL Healthcare Consulting, a firm headed with James Lawler, will conduct the financial review.
Although unclear how deeply involved in the problems at Newark's University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Lawler is one of a number of people who are the subject of federal probe into financial questions there.
Jeanne Otersen of the Coalition said this was not a concern.
"James Lawler was referred to us by another financial consultant we trust. My understanding is that Lawler resigned as a whistleblower and filed suit against UMDNJ," she said. "He has a history as well in Hudson County, and seems to be known and trusted. We know he has the expertise to provide a thorough analysis of BMC finances."
Coalition Chairperson Mary Jane Desmond agreed that this move is a good thing.
"I must be clear that this is not a full audit," she said. "It is a review that will look at the finances, managerial and operational overview and make some recommendations for future steps."
The review is expected to begin next week.
"Along with their recent agreement to add physician members to the board, this financial review is an important acknowledgement of the right of the Bayonne community to participate in the future of our community hospital," said Desmond. "What is equally important is that any plan for achieving financial solvency at BMC both maintains quality health care for our community, and be shared with our community and employees."
Lawler expects the review to take 30 days, and to include a review of opportunities for improving revenues and financial operations.
The Coalition also said it intended to call on the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services to oversee the development of a plan to keep BMC solvent, and to ensure community participation in the decision-making of the hospital.
Pychiatric transition unit to close
Otersen called the review "an important step toward a true financial picture" and said this was "a hopeful and significant step."
But Otersen, who is also a representative of the union representing hospital workers, said the good news came on the heels of bad news as the board announced the closing of the psychiatric transition unit.
She said she is hoping for a meeting with the hospital, union and the state Department of Health to put together a turn around plan.
Otersen also said the loss of service would have an impact on the patients.
Before the service can be reduced, the hospital is required to notify the state Department of Health and the union.
"While the board agreed to add people to the board and have a more open relationship, here we find they have already made this decision," Oterson said.
By law, the board had to notify the state 60 days prior to the closing and, by agreement with the union, notify the union 30 days prior. Otersen said the unit is scheduled to close in early February.
She said the union will resist and will seek a true financial assessment.
"We don't yet know the full impact," she said. "But without this unit, if someone comes to the hospital and the doctor decides to admit that person, the patient will have to go someplace else."
ond University Medical Center opens under new management
Meanwhile, officials cut the ribbon on Jan. 10 for the new logo to the renamed St. Vincent's Hospital on Staten Island. Dubbed Richmond University Medical Center, it will be operated under the umbrella of Bridge Regional Health System, becoming a sister facility to BMC.
Brockman will serve as chairman of BRHS, BMC as well as RUMC. The board for RUMC will be made up of Staten Island residents. In early January, Daniel A. Kane was named Acting CEO for BRHS
A CEO Search Committee convened in December 2006 after the departure of former Bayonne Medical Center CEO Robert H. Evans. The Committee consisted of 12 members: three BMC Physicians; three RUMC Physicians; and six BMC Board of Trustee members. The BMC Board approved the Committee's unanimous recommendation at its Jan. 4 meeting.
"Mr. Kane was the unanimous choice of both the search committee and the full board of trustees. Although this is a tremendously challenging time in the health care industry, Mr. Kane's talent and personal qualities, as well as his experience and knowledge of the health care industry, will allow his vision to set the stage for a strong future. I am confident that Mr. Kane will serve both institutions well." Brockman said.
Kane said he looked forward to the opportunity to serve Bayonne and Staten Island residents.
"While it would be difficult to overstate the serious financial challenges that we face, our Board and I are committed to working with state and local officials, community leaders, our medical staffs and employees, and other stakeholders to bring about financial stability and achieve our shared vision and goals," he said.
As the acting CEO of Bridge Regional Health System, Kane will have offices at Bayonne Medical Center and Richmond University Medical Center. Kane has entered into a six-month agreement and will begin his new role on Feb. 5.
"We are pleased with the selection of Mr. Kane as Acting CEO and we are confident that he will foster the local control and independence that the medical staff and administration at RUMC need to be successful," stated Dr. Joseph Motta, medical staff president at Richmond University Medical Center.