Hudson officials say fate of three hospitals is threatened by ‘greed’

Mayors of three Hudson County cities joined with state lawmakers Monday at a protest outside a nursing home in Jersey City, accusing its corporate owner of acting against the public interest in stalled negotiations over the fate of hospitals in Jersey City, Bayonne and Hoboken.

“We are calling on Alaris to stop putting greed in front of a solution,” said Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. “Their greed is ultimately putting tens of thousands of people’s health at risk here in Hudson County.”

RWJ Barnabas Health, which is one of the state’s largest hospital chains, wants to buy Christ Hospital, Bayonne Hospital and Hoboken Medical Center from CarePoint Health. Tough negotiations between the two industry rivals resulted in a deal, but there was a catch.

Avery Eisenreich, who owns a chain of North Jersey nursing homes called Alaris Health, also has an interest in all three hospitals. He owns a 25% stake in both the hospital business and the property at Christ Hospital. He owns the Bayonne Medical Center. And he has a 70% stake in the Hoboken University Medical Center land and 25% of the hospital business. All three properties sit on land whose value has skyrocketed in recent years. The officials who gathered in Jersey City on Monday say Eisenreich is trying to cash in.

“Today, the ownership of the land is the single largest stumbling block for us to get a deal done so that we, all the communities in Hudson County, the three hospitals, remain open,” said Mayor Jimmy Davis of Bayonne.

“My understanding is that Alaris is asking close to present value on a lease of about $300 million for a property that they acquired for $51 million and that’s a total impasse,” Fulop said. “And so, at this point, Alaris is the obstacle, clearly, and it’s all about real estate, as Mayor Davis said. It’s all about greed and dollars and we’re collectively saying that that’s unacceptable.”

Alaris did not respond to a request for comment.

In October, CarePoint Health agreed in principle to sell Christ Hospital and Hoboken University Medical Center to RWJ Barnabas. But the deal hit a snag after Alaris bought the Hoboken facility’s buildings and grounds.

In December, CarePoint sued Alaris in a Delaware court, claiming it had interfered with the sale agreement. And in a countersuit, Alaris alleged CarePoint had siphoned off profits from the hospitals. News then emerged that CarePoint’s deal with RWJBarnabas was off, prompting Fulop to write Gov. Phil Murphy asking the state to intervene, out of fear that CarePoint could declare bankruptcy and liquidate Christ Hospital.

Murphy agreed to appoint a state monitor to oversee the daily finances of the 362-bed health care center.

The officials said Monday they were also pursuing legislative solutions.

“We have legislation on the table to make sure that medical area of Hoboken, from a land use perspective, is a hospital district,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravinder Bhalla.

State Sen. Brian Stack, a Democrat who also serves as mayor of Union City, said plans were afoot at the State House too.

“Together with Sen. [Sandra] Cunningham and Sen. [Nicholas] Sacco, we’ll be introducing legislation that will streamline the process on condemnation of a hospital to keep it as a hospital,” he said, referring to the two other Democrats who represent Hudson in the upper house of the state Legislature.

With 4,000 employees and over 100,000 visits a year among them, the three hospitals are an important part of the health and economy of Hudson County. And with Hudson’s first case of COVID-19 diagnosed this weekend, it’s likely that the three facilities will soon be called on to play an even bigger role in the weeks and months ahead.

Editor’s note: RWJ Barnabas Health is a funder of NJTV News.

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