Getting it Right: The Reorganization of UMDNJ

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Getting it Right: The Reorganization of UMDNJ Tom Murphy and Elmer Daniels Tom Murphy is a research teaching specialist at NJ Medical School and Elmer Daniels is a Registered Nurse and Case Manager at University Hospital. Both are officers of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, representing 4000 nurses and health professionals at UMDNJ. As a nurse in the Newark community, and a researcher, we spend every working day serving the health care needs of NJ residents, providing care and contributing to advances in medical research. Our life’s work is to foster advances in medicine, shaping the changing needs of our health care system. We had hoped to welcome the Governor’s UMDNJ Advisory Committee’s plan to merge UMDNJ and Rutgers University, since the stated goals were to advance NJ’s medical education, research and health care. But for our patients, for the physician or nurse-in-training, for the research that prevents tomorrow’s diseases, we are not convinced that the plan to reorganize the University of Medicine and Dentistry and Rutgers University gets it right. The Committee’s final report makes a number of recommendations, but leaves critical questions unanswered. It recommends that a private-public partnership run University Hospital, but fails to examine whether there will be appropriate oversight to assure access to quality health care. It recommends that the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the School of Public Health and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey be merged into Rutgers, but fails to analyze the benefits or the impact on community clinics in New Brunswick. It recommends that UMDNJ be renamed the New Jersey Health Sciences University, but fails to examine whether the school could survive after revenue is stripped away, or the potential job loss in the merger. It recommends streamlining of Central Administration, but neglects compliance with regulation, public and worker safety and bidding laws, and the efficiencies gained through central purchasing. Cost and funding remain open questions. UMDNJ currently holds over $600 million in debt, costing $50 million in yearly debt service. The Governor’s plan opens the door to lawsuits brought by bond holders and - in the worst case – default. Rumors and uncertainty abound – and that’s no way to run a hospital, or a University. The Committee describes these issues as details, to be worked out later, behind closed boardroom doors But taxpayer expenditures, the preservation of jobs in Newark, patient care quality and funding for medical research are not just ‘details’, they are issues of substance. University Hospital was founded to fill pressing needs for medical care in Newark, tied to the Newark community through the Newark Agreements and designated as a level-one trauma center for our entire State. "The State Comprehensive Neuroscience Center of New Jersey" provides
stroke care, spinal and brain surgery to patients from all over the world. University Hospital is also the largest provider of care for New Jersey’s uninsured residents. Our clinics throughout the state serve the medically underserved; provide mental health services, and treat patients in settings more appropriate than overwhelmed Emergency Rooms. We must protect care and services, as well as the jobs and rights of health care workers. Our workplace rights provide safe staffing guidelines, whistleblower protection, training standards and professional education opportunities, and health and safety measures for ourselves and our patients. These rights should remain intact with any merger. Health professionals are on the leading edge of change, constantly re-evaluating and adapting patient practices, research protocols, and educational techniques to improve the lives of the patients and communities we serve. We are open to the restructuring of UMDNJ and Rutgers University, if the process is shaped and guided by professionals and the needs of our communities. The outcome should improve the delivery of quality health care services; increase private and public investments in research; uphold workplace standards; and protect the communities that depend on the UMDNJ health care system. The best way to provide all of these protections is to conduct the merger with legislative oversight, in the public arena, with community input and accountability for public funding, and not merely through an Executive Reorganization Plan that leaves the ‘details’ to a handful of executives. That’s how to get it right. ##
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