With layoffs coming, healthcare union workers at CarePoint call for state financial monitor

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With around 40 layoffs on the way, healthcare union workers at CarePoint Health, specifically Christ Hospital and the Bayonne Medical Center, are calling on the state to appoint a financial monitor.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“While layoffs are a common course of action for CarePoint, this does raise eyebrows in light of the scathing report released just a few months ago which highlighted questionable business practices and financial transactions made by the company,” Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) Local 5185 President Debbie White said in a statement.

“The recommendations of the state investigators must be reviewed, and the State must intervene to monitor how the owners will takes steps to protect the financial stability of CarePoint hospitals.”

CarePoint spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said that hospitals across the state have to staff to their patient volume and that every level of operations was evaluated, as well as reducing agency usage and overtime.

“Hospitals across the country and certainly in New Jersey are seeing decreased patient volumes as more options for care emerge, such as urgent care centers, imaging centers, ambulatory surgery sites, etc. Hospitals have the financial responsibility to staff to the patient volume they serve and to adapt staffing to meet the patients where they are – in the hospital or in outpatient and ambulatory settings,” she said in a statement.

“Earlier this year, we initiated a rigorous and thoughtful process to review our hospitals for workforce efficiencies and care management. While we have identified a number of efficiencies, it is important to note a majority will be achieved through a reduction in agency usage, a reduction in overtime and closing select open positions — as well as a modest rightsizing.”

Morrill further stated that CarePoint will continue to deliver “the highest quality healthcare” in Hudson County while still maintaining operational efficiency.

According to union reps, HPAE elected leaders were notified by CarePoint administration that layoff notices will be sent to employees in the coming weeks.

HPAE, the largest union of nurses and health professionals in NJ, represents nurses at Christ Hospital in Jersey City and the nurses, health professionals, technical, service, business and clerical staff at Bayonne Medical Center in Bayonne.

According to a report by the New Jersey Commission of Investigations released in March, CarePoint hospitals paid $157 million in management fees and allocations to private entities known as “related parties.”

The report noted that these related-party management entities have no employees and only limited operating expenses which raises questions about the nature of their operations, the union noted.

“Rather than heed the warnings of the report, CarePoint is relying on prior practices of reducing their healthcare workforce to protect the financial interests of the corporate owners,” added White.

The report also called for the state Department of Health to review all of the organization’s financial statements, disclosures of annual trust agreements and requiring documentation for management services, among other things.

Claiming that true oversight is yet to truly be provided, the HPAE is calling on Gov. Phil Murphy to appoint a financial monitor to ensure that the recommendations from the SCI are implemented as soon as possible.

“Under the previous administration our union’s warning cries regarding for-profit hospital finances were ignored by the Christie Administration. Now we are not alone in sounding the alarm as the state’s own investigation has alerted us all to questionable practices,” White added.

“The days of Chris Christie ignoring business practices that harm working people has come to an end. We look forward to working with Governor Murphy and Trenton lawmakers to bring transparency and accountability into healthcare to protect the interests of patients and healthcare professionals.”

A DOH spokeswoman did not immediately return an email seeking comment on Wednesday.

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