Potential layoffs at the Hoboken University Medical Center

Potential layoffs at the Hoboken University Medical Center

January 23, 2009 Jersey Journal

Faced with declining patient numbers and falling revenue, Hoboken University Medical Center officials said yesterday that workers may be laid off and services cut as early as next month.

HUMC spokeswoman Joan Quigley, who is also a state assemblywoman, said revenues have been dropping at the hospital, most noticeably in the last quarter of 2008. The hospital had fewer patients during the holiday season than in previous years.

"We've had some doctors tell us their waiting rooms are empty," Quigley said. "The national economy has hurt us all. A lot of people lost their insurance and other people don't want to spend the co-pay because they're afraid they'll need the money later."

She said the HUMC also has seen a marked reduction in elective procedures, such as non-necessary surgeries or treatments. Like many hospitals across New Jersey, HUMC has also seen reductions in state aid and charity care.

"We don't want to keep plodding along, saying we'll get better," said Quigley, who refused to say how many workers may lose jobs. "We have to make cuts."

HUMC needs to slice about $1.5 million from its payroll, Quigley said.

The HUMC, the former St. Mary Hospital, is a not-for-profit entity purchased by the city in 2007 and operated by the Hoboken Municipal Hospital Authority. Before it was bought, St. Mary was said to be losing $2 million a month.

The HUMC took out a $52 million bond at that time, part of which is being used to build a new emergency room for the hospital. Quigley said money could not be taken out of that capital funding to pay for operating costs.

HUMC is considering a number of options to avoid layoffs, among them offering buyout plans for employees who've worked there more than 15 years. HUMC is also talking with the two unions who represent hospital employees - the Jersey Nurses Economic Security Organization and Hospital Workers of America Local 1199.

Doctors and nurses would be the last considered in the potential layoffs, said Quigley.

"Hands-on bedside people would be the last to go; we would be looking at possibly drivers, maybe getting by with one less food server, one less housekeeper - things that don't really impact patient care," said Quigley.

The hospital ran at a deficit in 2008, said Quigley, although she's not sure by how much. "Once we make adjustments to payroll we will have a break-even budget for 2009," she said.

There will be an HUMC Authority meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. The budget will be presented at that meeting, which will be held in Assumption Hall at the HUMC; enter through the emergency room.

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