HPAE Local 5091 officers attended a Bergen County Freeholders’ meeting last night to deliver hundreds of signatures on a petition calling on the freeholders to set strong standards in choosing a new operator at their hospital, Bergen Regional Medical Center. Local 5091 President Jeff Peck urged the freeholders not to repeat the mistake that was made 18 years ago when the County selected the current operator, Solomon (Bergen Regional Medical Center LP), to operate the hospital.
The petition was signed not just by HPAE members, but workers in the hospital who are represented by another union, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Health professionals and community advocates opposed the privatization of Bergen Pines County Hospital back in 1997, raising numerous objections to the sweetheart contract given to Solomon. Some of our worst projections came true at a hospital critical to providing mental health, long-term care, and addiction services for all of New Jersey.
Over the years, the failures of the original contract became evident as accountability and oversight of Solomon’s operations proved to be nearly impossible. That is why HPAE is demanding that whoever becomes the operator of the hospital, the County must maintain authority and responsibility for access to quality care and essential mental health services, and ensure a safe and secure work environment for dedicated nurses, social workers and staff.
HPAE has proposed a set of standards for a new contract for an operator of the hospital. Those standards are:
- Improved Oversight & Authority: The BCIA must retain the license to operate the hospital and the authority to ensure full compliance with patient safety, financial reporting, governance and labor laws and regulations.
- Protection of the Hospital’s Mission for Patients: Preference should be given to not-for-profit partnerships that focus on the mission of the hospital.
- Effective Enforcement: Strengthen remedies for contract violations, such as financial penalties and appointment of on-site monitor.
- Safe Staffing Requirement. Set safe standards for nurse and caregiver staffing for all hospital units.
- Service Protections and Enhancements. Determine services based on community need and protect and expand services, with BCIA approval for any change or reduction in health services.
- Workers’ Rights Protections. Recognize existing unions, collective bargaining agreements, and rights of the workforce.
- A Proven Track Record Review every applicant’s track record for patient/resident safety, employee safety, labor relations and financial transparency.
- Investment in A Safe Facility for Patients and Workers: Make needed capital improvements, with shared financial responsibility for maintenance and improvements.
- Accountability to Taxpayers & Financial Transparency. Require annual audited financial statements for BRMC and any affiliates with business or financial relationship, and provide financial information to the public through the NJ Open Public Records Act.
- Public disclosure of Self-dealing and an end to conflicts of interest. Require disclosure and prior review and approval by the County of all transactions between a partner or manager and any of its related or affiliated entities.