It's make or break time for hospital

It's make or break time for hospital

Friday, February 02, 2007 Jersey Journal

Yesterday was the first full day of the new/old hospital in Hoboken. St. Mary Hospital is no more. Mile Square residents now have the Hoboken University Medical Center. Just how long they will have this health care facility is not known, but for the sake of local taxpayers it had better be for a long time.

On Wednesday, an agreement was signed transferring title of the hospital building and land to the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority - an autonomous body set up by the city to own and oversee operations. It is the end - or is it beginning? - of an attempt to save the hospital from permanently closing.

There were few noticeable changes apart from the addition of new signs and the removal of religious icons that graced the hospital once operated by Bon Secours Health Systems.

The city agreed last year to take over the financially strapped hospital on Willow Avenue. Last year, the hospital recorded losses of about $18 million and was doomed to oblivion. Instead, the city created the hospital authority and engineered a rescue effort that is financed by a $52 million bond - backed by the city - that will pay for improvements and upgrades, as well as funding start-up operations and creating a reserve fund. Hoping the new hospital succeeds, Bon Secours is also providing $13 million in funds to help with operating costs.

Those upgrades will include a new emergency room, labor and delivery rooms, private patient rooms, a new cardiac catheterization lab and new surgical suites.

Additional land on Fourth Street - the site of the Midtown Garage - will be transferred to the city as part of the agreement, which also calls for the sale of the Faith Services building on Willow Avenue and the Family Health Services building on Clinton Street to the HMHA for $5.35 million.

City officials believe that they will have an idea of its success within a year and that the land is a valuable asset and security for taxpayers. The property could be sold for development to recoup the financing, say officials. This newspaper did not support the large financial commitment placed on city taxpayers to save the hospital. Now that the deed is done, it had better work - and quickly.

Part of the agreement provides that should the hospital be sold within two years for any purpose other than health care, Bon Secours would receive 50 percent of any profit after bills are paid.

The "new" hospital should make a concerted effort to market itself. Also, city residents wanted to save the hospital, now they should make use of it.

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