“The hospital is about to close”

Claire Moses at sat down with Councilman Mike Lenz and discussed the current fiscal challenges Hoboken faces.  Along with it this standout comment, “The hospital is about to close.”

This is at least the third time we’ve heard this statement, once in a direct conversation just a week or so back with the same Councilman.  When asked how he can make that conclusion based on the current changes at the hospital, Mike Lenz offered no evidence.

Although MSV aired earlier pessimism for the hospital, there’s now EVIDENCE to at least side with cautious optimism.  Even if the Hoboken University Medical Center does not achieve all its objectives, its unions are on board with reductions along with the non-union staff for the duration of its contract and there’s a plan in place to get them well into the black by year’s end.  Nothing is static of course in an economy as troubling as this one, at the same time one of the keys to their success, emergency room admissions are up significantly and its continuance forebodes good things, not closure.

For a “numbers guy” this reeks of a an agenda that has nothing to do with any numbers evidenced.  The question we’d like to ask Councilman Lenz is why?

Councilman Lenz responded via email for this story:

I had a long and detailed interview with Hoboken Patch and we talked in depth about the Hospital.  In that time I certainly expressed my hope the hospital survive, and my fear that it would not.  While I likely did utter the overly pessimistic words attributed to me, it would have been more keeping with my considered opinion had the author chosen to quote me as saying “The hospital may be about to close” which is something I also said.  I regret being less precise in my language, and have taken steps to correct it.
That said, I do have a very real fear that the hospital may close, despite all the denials from its administration.  Part of that stems from a belief that our area has more community hospitals than it can support.  Part of that stems from a notion that the incoming Christie administration has signaled its lack of commitment to HUMC.  But a big part of my pessimism stems from the actions and inactions of hospital administration.  In several decades of watching public bodies I have forged a rule of thumb for guessing the truth:  “The less they’re willing to tell you, the worse the situation really is.”  Applied to this situation the prognosis according to that rule looks bleak.
Take just one example:  Ten percent labor cost give backs were negotiated?  Great, but for how long, and with what other concessions?  Does it cover everyone?  Were there workrule changes? Did we now make employment guarantees?  If the answers to questions like these would contribute to increased confidence they should and I suspect would be shouting them from the roofs.  That they are not, leaves me with concerns.

In a phone interview late this afternoon, Toni Tomarazzo, a December appointee to the Hoboken Hospital Authority overseeing HUMC stated,  I know that the management of the HUMC has made a commitment to produce any and all information requested by the authority (the Hospital Authority).  We are in the process of working closely with them to obtain that information.  It is our expectation that the information will be provided timely and in a useable format and that the Authority members and the public will be able to use it to further understand the state of the hospital,” adding – “We will receive the level of detail with respect to the budget.”

Claire Moses in a phone call Friday earlier indicated she changed the quote from The hospital “is closing” to “may be” in a spirit of fairness.  MSV stands by its accuracy and thanks for the clarification.

Photo: Councilman Mike Lenz at the City Council meeting Wednesday.
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