Jersey Journal

CEO Says Jersey City Hospital's Survival Dependent On Sale To California Company

The Jersey Journal — Sunday, November 20, 2011

By Terrence T. McDonald
The Jersey Journal

Depending on who is asked, the pending sale of Christ Hospital in Jersey City to a for-profit healthcare company will save the community, or help to destroy it.

Christ Hospital officials announced this summer plans to sell the 139-year medical facility to Prime Healthcare Services, a California chain that operates 14 acute-care hospitals. The sale, they said, would be critical to hospital's survival.

But opponents of the pending sale — labor unions, some elected officials, community groups — point to Prime's track record in California, where it has been accused of submitting fraudulent bills to boost Medicare payments. U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, who represents San Diego, has asked federal officials to investigate the company for "possible systematic fraud."

Christ Hospital CEO Peter Kelly has stressed that there's nothing Jersey City residents should worry about. Prime officials were upfront about the charges leveled against them when they offered to buy Christ Hospital, Kelly said in an interview last week, adding the charges stem from "misinformation."

"I've spent time in their hospitals," he said. "They're a legitimate acute-care provider ... what they say they do, they do."

The sale would be the nonprofit hospital's "salvation," Kelly added. Prime has pledged to spend $30 million in upgrades to Christ Hospital, which ended last year $4 million in the red even with an $11 million state grant, he said.

"It's about preserving the institution," Kelly said.

Opponents of the pending sale feel otherwise. State watchdog New Jersey Citizen Action launched a petition drive last week to draw scrutiny to the impending sale, saying they want to "save Christ Hospital."

"It's our hospital," said Paulette Eberle, the group's co-chair and a Jersey City resident. "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 and Christ Hospital officials are scheduled to meet with hospital staff on Dec. 9, according to a hospital source.

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