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Proposed sale of Passaic St. Mary's Hospital subject of two public hearings

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The proposed sale of the non-profit St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic to the California-based for-profit health care firm Prime Healthcare Services will be the subject of two separate public hearings in Passaic on Wednesday and Thursday.

The hearing on Wednesday is being held by the state Department of Health while the state Attorney General's office will convene the Thursday hearing. Both hearings will begin at 6 p.m. at Passaic High School.

New Jersey Citizen Action and a coalition of community and labor groups are calling on the state to "establish safeguards for access, affordability and quality of care and services as conditions for allowing the sale," of St. Mary's to Prime.

"It is vital that St. Mary's be a full service community hospital that meets the needs of the community now and for the future. We are concerned that a for-profit company will neglect that mission," said Nelly Celi, member of the Peruvian American Coalition in Passaic. "The community needs to be a part of the process and not an afterthought."

A community health needs survey found that hypertension, asthma, diabetes and depression are among the illnesses frequently experienced in the area, the coalition said.

The community advocates said they want the state to require that Prime keep the hospital as an acute care facility, one where outpatient and clinical services continue to be made available to the community. They also want the hospital to be required to maintain in-network status with insurance companies.

The coalition will also ask the state to require a monitor to ensure that any new owner of St. Mary's meets the needs of the community.

Luis Leon of Prime Healthcare said "Prime Healthcare Services is committed to St. Mary's Hospital, its employees and the greater Passaic community. We welcome the State of New Jersey's thorough review process and look forward to the public hearings, which will allow community members to make their voices heard. We remain confident that this fair and open process will ultimately lead to St. Mary's joining the Prime Healthcare family. Prime Healthcare's goal is to make St. Mary's one of the best hospitals in New Jersey."

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