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State picks consultant to analyze Newark health services

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Navigant Consulting Inc. was chosen by a state agency Thursday to analyze health care services in the greater Newark area – a study whose scope includes recommending possible consolidation or regionalization of services now provided by the area's five hospitals and four other publicly-funded health facilities.

 The study also will consider whether health care services in the regional are inadequate and should be strengthened.

New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority awarded a contract for $778,500 to Navigant, which previously did a study of Hudson County’s health care system for the authority that was issued in 2011. Navigant has a Nov. 15 deadline to complete the Newark study.

One of the five hospitals, Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, is now seeking state approval to be sold to California-based Prime Healthcare Services.

The five hospitals are Newark’s three hospitals:  Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Saint Michael’s Medical Center and University Hospital; Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville; and East Orange General Hospital. Barnabas Health, the state’s largest hospital system, operates Newark Beth Israel and Clara Maass.

The study will also look at three health centers: Jewish Renaissance Medical Center, Newark Community Health Centers and Newark Homeless Health Care, as well as Broadway House, which is a long-term-care facility.

The authority’s request for proposals charges Navigant, among other things, with providing “an analysis of where patients in the Newark area are going for health care services and, if a substantial number are going elsewhere, why they are doing so. The consultant should also provide recommendations on steps, if any, that can be taken to keep patients in the Newark area.”

The RFP states, “The purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether there is duplication of services, unused capacity or a lack or insufficiency of necessary services in the area and to propose recommendations for consolidation or regionalization of services if there is duplication or overcapacity.”

The RFP could lead to a recommendation that health care services in the Newark area should be expanded.  It directs the consultant to consider recommending “expansion of services if there is a lack of necessary services.”

Joel Cantor, director of the Rutgers Center  for State Health Policy, said, "The Newark region has too much inpatient (hospital) bed capacity and needs to build up its primary care infrastructure."

Cantor served on the Reinhardt commission, which in 2008 issued a major study of health care in New Jersey. Cantor said Navigant did good work for that commission, "and has the capacity to do what is needed to support what may be tough decisions in Newark."

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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