For immediate release: April 4, 2014
Registered Nurses at Memorial Hospital of Salem County (MHSC) are outraged with the NJ Department of Health’s (DOH) decision to allow Community Health Systems, Inc (CHS), the Tennessee-based, for-profit hospital chain that owns the hospital to terminate maternity services.
The 140 RNs at MHSC, represented by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), raised concerns to DOH over the closure at a meeting where they were joined by elected officials and community advocates. Citing the lack of public transportation in rural Salem County, the nurses and their allies asked the DOH to take a serious and on-site look at the impact ending maternity services would have on access to care for the low-income women and their babies who rely on the hospital for care, especially in light of the 20% increase in the infant mortality rate in the County from 2005-2009. Nevertheless, the DOH sided with MHSC’s for-profit owners.
Read a NJ Spotlight article on HPAE's criticism of the state's decision to allow the closure of the hospital's maternity unit.
CHS, the largest publicly-traded hospital chain in the country, purchased MHSC in 2002. CHS owns, operates or leases 208 hospitals in 29 states through its affiliates, along with physician practices, ambulatory surgery centers, imaging centers and home care agencies. In 2013, CHS posted net operating revenues of $12.9 billion and it recently acquired Health Management Associates (HMA) for $7.6 billion, increasing its size significantly with combined revenues for 2013 posted at $18 billion.
MHSC was the first acute care hospital in NJ to be sold to a for-profit company, and was required to maintain existing services for 10 years. “I was here when CHS made the promises and they tried to get out of nearly every single promise they made,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney. “All CHS cares about is taking money out of this state, and not caring for the people who live here,” added Sweeney.
“CHS has spent millions of dollars to buy HMA and expand services in some of their more profitable hospitals around the country. But here in Salem County, CHS has neglected to follow through on their commitment to improve and expand health care services,” said Lorie Halter, RN at MHSC and a member of HPAE Local 5142. “CHS is one of the most profitable hospital corporations in the nation and it’s shameful that their solution to addressing the needs of our patients is to cut services.”
CHS has a track record of closing maternity services at their hospitals. In 2008, CHS-owned Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, PA closed its maternity unit, citing financial losses and the hospital’s “plans to expand gynecological treatment and care for aging people, which are in higher demand from nearby neighborhoods and are more profitable”. That same year, another CHS hospital, located in Brandywine PA, also closed its maternity unit, citing cost constraints.
“Now the question remains whether DOH will step in to protect the remaining services at Salem Hospital, or will the nurses, patients and community residents have to fight an uphill battle to get the Department to take a serious look at how to protect their community hospital and the essential health care services it provides before additional services are reduced or eliminated,” said Bernie Gerard, RN and Vice-President of HPAE.
HPAE is a healthcare union representing 12,000 Registered Nurses and Health Care Professionals throughout New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania and is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
For more information, contact Bridget Devane (732) 996-5493 or Jeanne Otersen (201) 280-9279
 Community Health Systems, Inc Form 10K, the year ending December 31, 2013, filed 2/26/2014. http://www.chs.net/investor-relations/sec-fillings/
 Community Health Systems, Inc. website; http://www.chs.net/
Ann Rappoport, PhD, “The Maternity Unit Dilemma: More have closed, costs are rising and there’s no answer in sight.” MetroKids, January 2010. http://www.metrokids.com/MetroKids/January-2010/The-Maternity-Unit-Dilemma/