But if city can't save St. Mary?

But if city can't save St. Mary?
September 28, 2006  Jersey Journal
HOBOKEN - Officials from St. Mary Hospital, which is still in the process of a city takeover, have announced plans to spend tens of millions of dollars modernizing the 149-year-old facility, but say if those plans fail within a few years to produce cash, the city should consider closing the hospital's doors.

"If, in three or four years, we realize that our problems are so big, and we have exhausted all options, then we would have to consider closing our doors, but the city would own the property and could sell it," said Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, who also serves as the hospital's spokeswoman.

Quigley, along with hospital CEO Harvey Holzberg, spoke Tuesday night at a community meeting sponsored by the Hoboken Quality of Life Coalition, which called the gathering to learn whether the city's taxpayers would be on the hook if the hospital's financial troubles continue.

The group's concerns are real. St. Mary Hospital has reportedly lost $118 million since Bon Secours Health System took over in 2000, and the latest reports before the city takeover indicate the hospital was losing millions of dollars per month.

The newly formed Hoboken Hospital Authority Board, which holds its first meeting tonight at 7 at the hospital, is expected to consider shortly a $65 million bond issue, which would be used to invest in capital projects that Holzberg says would increase revenues and prestige.

The projects include building an new emergency department on the hospital's current parking lot, an expansion of the maternity department and converting the hospital's predominant two-bed units into more "private" one-bed units.

Other changes are geared toward changing the atmosphere and culture of the hospital, such as offering patients "hotel-style" menus where they can order at any time during the day, along with an expected name change.

The hospital's well-chronicled failures have created a sense of anxiety among its new owners - the taxpayers of Hoboken, who have lived through municipal budget shortfalls and questionable management of city parking garage.

Though Quigley said she would not rule out city taxpayer contribution to the hospital, she the "the local taxpayers are not at risk, and will not be at risk."

Officials point to an additional $26 million in state and federal aid that's now available due to the hospital's conversion from a private to a public hospital.

"For the first year, we are pretty sure that's not going to happen," said Quigley. "We are going to set monthly benchmarks, and if we are not hitting them, we are going to look at resources here and additional state aid," Quigley said.

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