Alarms are sounding in Bayonne over concerns that a deal between two health care companies could lead to the closure of the city’s only full-service hospital.
Mayor Jimmy Davis is red-flagging the proposed sale by Carepoint Health, the owner of the Bayonne Medical Center, of two of its other hospitals in Hudson County to RWJ Barnabas Health, one of the state’s largest healthcare chains and an underwriter of NJTV News.
“I received a phone call from someone and was told that, behind my back, they have negotiated this deal, and the ultimate endgame would be that Bayonne hospital closes,” he said.
Last week, RWJ Barnabas issued a letter of intent confirming a deal to purchase Christ Hospital in Jersey City and Hoboken University Medical Center from Carepoint. The nonbinding letter also said that a separate process was initiated by Carepoint “seeking a strategic partner” for Bayonne Medical Center. Davis said he believes the public release of the letter was a result of his getting wind of the sale.
A source familiar with the Carepoint negotiations said “multiple, large healthcare systems already expressed interest.”
Davis vowed to keep a hospital open on the 29th Street site. “Make no bones about it, one way or another, I will have a hospital on that property,” he said. “There’s no way this deal goes through unless someone comes in to purchase and the city still has an acute-care facility.”
In this small city, tucked at the extreme southern end of Hudson County, the hospital is the only game in town. The closest facility is nine miles away — as much as 45 minutes in traffic.
“We live in a peninsula, but we have an island mentality,” Davis added. “For us, the people who live here, if something major happens to someone in your family, trying to get to Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City is just not feasible.”
The union representing 800 of the hospital workers says there were 27,000 emergency room visits at Bayonne Medical in 2018. “The hospital has been here for over 100 years,” said Barbara Rosen, a vice president with the union, Health Professionals & Allied Employees. “It’s been a pillar to them. And it’s important that the hospital is open in full capacity.”
Davis said the issue is personal. “Eight years ago, nine years ago, they saved my mom’s life,” he said. “Yes, it’s personal and it’s personal for everyone in this city. Bayonne people are very territorial.”
The city is also in the midst of a development boom, with the population expected to jump by another 20,000 residents over the next decade, with an increasing number of senior citizens.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Health would not comment on the future of the hospital, saying only that it “is carefully monitoring the financial condition of the Carepoint Hospitals as we do all the hospitals in New Jersey. Access to health care is always a concern.”
Davis says he’s had productive talks with Gov. Phil Murphy about keeping the hospital from flatlining.