Hudson Reporter

New Jersey Citizen Action Circulates Petition Re Christ Hospital

The Hudson Reporter — Thursday, November 17, 2011

By E. Assata Wright

JERSEY CITY — In the latest petition drive to circulate in Jersey City this year, New Jersey Citizen Action has launched a petition to, according to a release, "protect the mission" of Christ Hospital, a nonprofit acute care facility in Jersey City Heights.

In July, Christ Hospital officials announced that they had signed a letter of intent to sell the 381-bed nonprofit facility to Prime Healthcare Services, a for-profit company that owns and operated 14 private hospitals in California.

The New Jersey Attorney General is currently reviewing the $15.7 million sale, which Christ President and CEO Peter Kelly has said is needed to save the hospital, which loses about $800,000 each month.

Christ officials and attorneys for Prime have requested that the state expedite the sale and approve the deal by Dec. 31, despite mounting questions about Prime's management of its hospitals in California.

"The people of Jersey City need to know that Christ Hospital, its services, and our health care providers will always be here for our families," said Jersey City resident Paulette Eberle, co-chair of New Jersey Citizen Action, the state's largest citizen watchdog coalition. "That's why a team of NJCA canvassers will be talking to Jersey City families about the sale. It's our hospital. It's been a pillar of the community for nearly 140 years. We need to make sure decisions are made with the input of residents instead of behind closed doors."

Prime Healthcare and its network of hospitals have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.

One investigation of Prime's hospitals by California Watch alleged that the company admitted patients based on business strategy, not medical need. Specifically, the organization alleged that the company was prone to admit out-of-network patients and keep them hospitalized at Prime facilities rather than transfer them to an in-network hospital.

In August 2010 California State Sen. Elaine Alquist, chair of the Senate Health Committee, asked the California Department of Health to "investigate Prime and support other state and federal investigations of Prime's practices."

Before the sale can be finalized, it must be approved by the state Attorney General, the Department of Health and Senior Services, and the State Health Planning Board.

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