Under a new bill introduced by state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31), CarePoint and other New Jersey hospitals couldn’t face eviction without approval from the state Department of Health and initiating a proceeding otherwise could lead to a $1 million fine.
Bill (S-4191) cleared the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee on Monday by a vote of 5-3 along party lines. Cunningham introduced the bill back on November 22nd.
“As amended by the committee, this bill prohibits landlords from initiating adverse possessory actions against an operator of a hospital, or a successor to the operator, without first obtaining written approval for the action from the Department of Health (DOH), the committee amendments state.
“An adverse possessory action initiated without the written approval of the DOH
will be deemed invalid. The DOH is to establish a process for landlords to submit requests to initiate adverse possessory actions, and will have the authority to approve requests upon finding that just cause exists for the adverse possessory action.”
The committee amendments continue that anyone who begins an adverse possessory action without DOH approval can face a civil penalty of up to $1 million.
While CarePoint, who owns the Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and the Hoboken University Medical Center, is not explicitly mentioned in the bill, it’s clear the legislation was created to prevent CarePoint from being forced out of the BMC – which is in Cunningham’s district.
Hudson Regional Hospital owns the hospital land in Bayonne and around this time last year told the NJ DOH that CarePoint defaulted on their lease and shortly thereafter issued them a termination letter, though has been unsuccessful in getting them to leave thus far.
In statement, Secaucus-based HRH blasted the proposal as “nothing more than a government giveaway to CarePoint,” questioning how a hospital tenant could not face any consequences for not paying rent.
“Senate bill S4191 is nothing more than a government giveaway to CarePoint, which has pillaged the healthcare resources in the county; continually misrepresented itself; flip-flopped on its commitments; and is owned by a person who faces a 14-point Justice Department Investigation,” they asserted.
“The bill offends all sense of equity and reason: in general terms, if this bill passes, no hospital tenant faces any consequence for a failure to pay rent under its lease; in specific terms, what is the benefit to the community from shifting to Hudson Regional Hospital, a private property owner, the costs of CarePoint’s failure to pay its rent all while CarePoint’s ownership continues to take out millions of dollars in management fees? In essence, CarePoint is once again attempting to use the authority of the government to forcefully take property that it doesn’t own.”
The Bayonne City Council had considered a $95 million eminent domain endeavor for the hospital land back in May, but tabled the measure after realizing the Local Finance Board should hear the matter first.
They have declined to do so since, likely at least in part since the council would have ultimately approval and currently doesn’t have the four votes necessary to approve the bonding measure.
While Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis favors the plan, he doesn’t have a vote in the matter.
Council President Sharon Nadrowski, now a declared mayoral challenger, has come out against it, while 2nd Ward Councilman Sal Gullace must recuse himself since he sits on the BMC board.
Cunningham did not immediately return a call seeking comment this afternoon.