Newark hospital halts plans to reduce number of inpatient pediatric beds

Taken from Politico
By Sam Sutton

07/20/2018

University Hospital in Newark has put an indefinite hold on plans to reduce the number of beds in its inpatient pediatric unit by more than 80 percent after facing a wave of opposition from city officials, community activists and organized labor.

“While our proposal was based on the clinical needs and volume of patients we see in the pediatric inpatient program, based on the feedback we have received and our ongoing assessment, we have decided to keep the unit operating at its current level,” a hospital spokesman said in a statement Friday.

POLITICO reported Wednesday that Newark Mayor Ras Baraka was consulting with Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration in an attempt to put the breaks on the hospital’s plan to eliminate 19 of the 23 beds in the inpatient pediatric unit.

The hospital filed what’s known as a certificate of need with the state Department of Health in April, requesting approval for its proposal, citing a lack of patients and the unnecessary diversion of resources. Under the plan, pediatricians would have continued to provide outpatient and preventative treatment at University, but children in need of longer-term care would have been transferred three miles south to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

Newark Beth Israel, an affiliate of private nonprofit healthcare provider RWJBarnabas Health, houses Children’s Hospital of New Jersey.

Community organizers and local hospital unions objected to transferring patients and responsibilities from state-owned University Hospital to Newark Beth Israel.

“There needs to be a discussion. People need to be involved. It needs to be as transparent as possible and we need to make sure it makes sense, not just for the hospital’s bottom line, but that it makes sense for the residents of this community,” Baraka said at a community meeting last week.

The health department was still reviewing the certificate of need when University Hospital said it was withdrawing its application pending further study and input from community stakeholders.
“Nurses and health professionals at University Hospital are relieved of the hospital’s decision to retract their application to close pediatric inpatient care,” said Ann Twomey, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union. “The hospital must continue to keep their commitment as a public institution by maintaining services for the entire community and advance the promotion of healthcare services for every resident in Newark.”

University’s inpatient pediatric unit is treating fewer patients for shorter amounts of time, thanks largely to better treatment methods and competition for patient volume among local hospitals, according to its certificate of need. There are typically fewer than seven patients in the 23-bed unit on any given night, the hospital stated in its certificate of need application.

The cuts would have translated into around $3 million in savings, giving the historically cash-strapped hospital a financial boost. Fitch Ratings recently downgraded University Hospital’s New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority bonds from “BBB” to “BB-” due to a $552 million net pension liability and “stable, but thin”operating margins.

RWJBarnabas was not consulted on University’s decision to withdraw of its certificate of need, spokeswoman Ellen Greene said in a statement.

“We became aware of this action when University Hospital began to notify community leaders,” she wrote.

Baraka could not be reached for comment.

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