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Jersey City hospital CEO says hospital weaning itself off stability grant

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Jersey City Medical Center is trying to be independent of the state's stabilization grant.
Jersey City Medical Center is trying to be independent of the state's stabilization grant.

Jersey City Medical Center received $34 million in 2008 — President and CEO Joseph Scott's first year at the hospital — from the state's Health Care Stabilization Fund program in order to prevent services from being cut and to try to get the hospital on a more even financial footing.

On Friday, the state awarded $30 million total in stabilization grants to eight hospitals, including $6 million to Jersey City Medical Center.

"My objective is to try to not apply for this grant next year and be independent of the stabilization grant — and I think we're in a position to be able to do that," Scott said today. "Year after year, (we have) been able to make improvements in our bottom line as a result of a series of strategies we've put in place."

Scott said Jersey City Medical Center has reduced its length-of-stay for inpatients, built its market share and instituted efficiencies to get the hospital in better financial shape.

Scott said on a percentage basis, Jersey City is the second-greatest provider of charity and Medicaid care in the state, and provides specialized services, like renal dialysis, that aren't available in other hospitals in Hudson County. He said the stabilization grant helps the hospital maintain and broaden the services available to the insured and uninsured.

Some of the criteria for eligibility include facilities facing closure or significant reduction of services and having a plan to increase financial stability in a measurable way and in a reasonable time frame. The hospitals also are subject to an audit process: At Jersey City, a member of the Health Department comes to board of trustees meetings to hear the hospital's plans and monitor progress.

"They come and give input to our board meetings during the grant award phase, and actually they provide some insight to us to give us the statewide perspective of what they're seeing throughout the state, so that's always helpful," Scott said.

The other hospitals receiving stabilization funds include $9.5 million to St. Mary's Hospital, $7 million to Christ Hospital, $3.5 million to St. Clare's Hospital, and $1 million each to University Hospital, Raritan Bay Medical Center, Kimball Medical Center and East Orange General Hospital.

Several of the hospitals receiving funding are currently in the process of changing or looking into new ownership. Mary O'Dowd, commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services, said ownership status did not factor into determining which facilities receive funds, or how much they received.

"It's a very different kind of review, and we would not presuppose a determination on (ownership transfer) review relative to whether or not stabilization funds would be granted," O'Dowd said. "However, some institutions clearly have looked to a transfer of ownership, or finding a partner or closure of services, as a way to stabilize their financial future."

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