The Health Department's decision to reopen shuttered Pascack Valley Hospital is an opportunity to finally move on and go about the business of rebuilding a hospital in Westwood.
Of course, the last week has been anything but that, as Valley and Englewood hospitals vowed to continue a legal fight that has offered so much predictability, Rob Reiner has optioned the rights to a romantic comedy version of it. But we're even sorrier to see the for-profit-hospital-as-boogeyman storyline resurrected as ailing hospitals continue seeking treatment for flatlining finances.
In the early skirmishes between Hackensack and its rivals over Pascack, the theme of a for-profit model being bad for Bergen got more play than Rick Perry's inability to count to three in a primary debate. But we believe an operational hospital, regardless of whether it is for- or nonprofit, is preferable to a closed hospital. When Prime Healthcare was in talks to take over Christ Hospital, it was painted as a money-hungry vampire that would bleed patients and cripple care — so it withdrew its bid. Ask Jersey City residents how excited they are now, with details of their hospital's bankruptcy plans just beginning to emerge — and no for-profit savior eager to take on the kind of backlash Prime faced.
For-profits have to do it better than nonprofits, because the degree of scrutiny they face is much steeper. A glimpse of what the new Pascack Valley facility will offer gives evidence of this — it will include high-tech labs and emphasize patient comfort in a way the old hospital did not. The best evidence may be Memorial Hospital's story — since being taken over by a for-profit in 2002, it's added doctors and services, and pays taxes.
Sometimes, seeking a profit isn't the disease — and it may even be a cure.