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Nursing union reports concerns at Meadowlands Regional Medical Center

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Nearly a year after first raising concerns about patient care at Meadowlands Regional Medical Center, the Health Professionals and Allied Employees Union has issued a white paper calling again for the state to implement a patient care monitor at the hospital.

Meadowlands was purchased by MHA LLC, a for-profit hospital group led by Dr. Richard Lipsky, in late 2010 from Liberty Health System. The HPAE requested a monitor in August 2011, with the assistance of the Appleseed Public Interest Law Center and a letter from state Sen. Joe Vitale (D-Woodbridge). The Department of Health and Senior Services decided in September 2011 to not implement a monitor at MRMC.

"There's no one single thing. It is a continuing matter where there have been failures by the hospital to meet the standards, meet the regulations," said Ann Twomey, president of HPAE in New Jersey. "We thought that if we could paint a very factual and correct picture of these particular owners, this particular hospital, that it would make a stronger case to demand a monitor to be sent in to do oversight of this hospital."

A request for comment from Meadowlands Regional Medical Center was not immediately returned.

The paper cites the July 2011 inspection by the health department, finding several deficiencies, as well as an additional inspection in November 2011.

William Conroy, acting deputy commissioner of the Health Department, said the state prefers to give health facilities an opportunity to correct deficiencies identified in inspections, and then follow up with regulatory action.

"There's an opinion by the union that a monitor would go in and improve the situation at the facility and improve the work conditions for the union members at that hospital," Conroy said. "But that's a position they take based on basically their opinion."

Conroy said a monitor would not have the same authority to impose direction or penalties to remedy any reported deficiencies in licensing requirements that the department has in its regulatory position. He also said that the department receives monthly financial reports from facilities, and given the current economic conditions, the department wants to protect "the fragility of the industry."

Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the department, said follow-up inspections have occurred at Meadowlands following complaints filed by the HPAE, and the state and the medical center are presently engaged in ongoing discussions about the deficiencies cited.

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