Hospital “Letter to the Editor” altered

In this weekends Hoboken Reporter, the lead “Letter to the Editor” was from Hoboken resident Beth Mason.

censor.gifIn the letter titled “Ask the right questions about hospital before voting”, she asked why the Council or Board haven’t asked the important questions that need to be raised before voting on the $52 million dollar bond ordinance for St. Mary Hospital (or the silly “Hoboken University Hospital”).

The Reporter did NOT publish this letter in it’s entirety, and took other liberties at removing some phrases and editing others. What’s the point of sending a personal letter to a newspaper if they’re just going to edit its content? I thought that’s the purpose of this section? Despite the letter being (partially) published, how credible can a newspaper be if they’re going to spin the words of someone else without their permission? They obviously have something to lose by not doing so.

So for your information, below is the ORIGINAL letter as it was sent to The Reporter. Highlighted in BOLD is what they either edited or left out entirely. It’s especially important to note the TWO other pertinent questions that were omitted.


Ask the right questions about hospital before voting

Dear Editor:
This coming Wednesday, December 6th, the City Council will vote on whether to approve the takeover of Saint Mary’s Hospital. Many of us want to save the Hospital. With other area facilities filled nearly to capacity and a large segment of our community unable to afford to go elsewhere for medical care, Saint Mary’s has a vital role to play in providing quality health care to Hoboken residents. Also, Saint Mary’s employs nearly 1,000 people, many of whom live here in town. The loss of those jobs would be a blow to many hard-working people and to our local economy as a whole. So we all can agree that saving Saint Mary’s Hospital is an important community goal.

But this does not mean that the Mayor’s plan will achieve that goal, or that if one supports the Hospital, one must support that plan. In fact, as I have read through the materials that were put before City Council and the Hospital Board, attended the City Council and Board meetings, and talked to other Hoboken residents and experts in the field, I have come to nearly the opposite conclusion – that the plan entails severe risks and puts healthcare and jobs in danger. No one on the Council or the Board is asking the questions, openly and publicly, to ensure that the plan is successful or that there are no better alternatives. For example:

  1. The plan projects 10% growth in patient revenues each and every year (starting almost immediately) for the next 5 years, and an almost lock-step growth in expenses. Where is the study that proves that revenues will grow that dramatically? Is the expense growth really necessary, or is there a lot of waste with unnecessary “consulting contracts” and the like? When was the last time you heard of a troubled business that cut not a penny in expenses? Is anyone minding the store? These are not idle questions. If either the revenue or expense projections are a mere 1% off, the Hospital loses money, something which it cannot afford to do and stay afloat. If Bon Secours left cash in the Hospital (actually, they are leaving none), we would have a cushion, but that’s not the deal that the Mayor negotiated.
  2. The plan requires over $40 million in federal and state subsidies over the next 5 years in order to work. 1/2 of this money is supposed to come from the state. Has the state promised in writing to fund its full share? This is not an idle question, either. For 2007, the state could not come up with the money, leaving Bon Secours to plug the hole with a one-time, $13 million payment. If the state repeats this performance in 2008 or any of the remaining years, the Hospital shuts down.
  3. What happens if the Hospital shuts down? Well, a variety of bad things. First, the $52 million in bonds guaranteed by the City will be due and payable. The Mayor says not to worry – we’ll just sell off all of the Hospital assets to pay off the bonds. But even assuming we can raise $52 million in a Hospital “fire sale”, what are we going to do about the other liabilities, like the severance, pensions and healthcare for the 1,000 people who will have now lost their jobs? Are they going to be sent away with nothing? And what about severance for Mr. Holzberg and his team, who will have a five-year contract the financial terms of which have not been publicly disclosed? Does he have a back-door guarantee from the City? Lastly, if there’s enough money in the Hospital to pay the bondholders and everyone else, why do the bondholders need a City guarantee?
  4. Many [was:Most] of the Hospital’s patients come from other cities in Hudson County, not from Hoboken. Given the Hospital’s importance to medical care county-wide, why isn’t the Hudson County Improvement Authority pitching in with financial help? Is a parking garage project (supported by the HCIA) more important than healthcare?
  5. Are there other sensible alternatives to the Mayor’s plan? I can think of a few. For example, can we partner with other area hospitals to save costs? Can the Hospital be converted to a facility that concentrates on indigent care and senior citizen assisted living – two vital Hoboken needs – instead of the single-room, “luxury” facility that the Mayor’s plan will require the Hospital to become? Why the rush to a decision? Bon Secours has imposed a dropdead date of January 1st, but will they really shut down the Hospital, throw 1,000 people out of work and cut off care to the indigent. Would the State even allow it? (if the Council refuses to say “How high?” when Bon Secours and the Mayor shout “Jump!”)

These are just a few of my questions. I wish someone on the Council would ask them and insist on getting straight and complete answers.
Beth Mason

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17 Comments on "Hospital “Letter to the Editor” altered"

9 years 10 months ago

If the mayor thinks the hospital is such a great idea let him put up East LA and his other ownership interests in his Hoboken businesses up for Collateral. If the Hospital fails then his properties are taken first, then we sort the rest out. I am sure we will never hear about St. Mary’s again.

9 years 10 months ago

Okay Hoboken needs hospital, mayor gets hospital…Hobokenites are happy mayor fights for them.(applause)

Hospital fails but mayor tried, Hobokenites happy that he tried at least…’s all about the poor & old people. (applause)

Hospital property needs to be sold…..Woohoo!! Here is where the fun starts! The mayor and council can cut some fantastical deals!

This is a Win, Win situation for the Mayor….I give this hospital a year maybe. People can write letters with recommendations on what to do, how to make this hospital work, but the bottom lime is that they want it to fail.

9 years 10 months ago

From the above NJHA link:

– Hopkins attributes the difference between New Jersey and the rest of the nation…and (to) the lack of any publicly funded acute care hospitals to care for the uninsured.

“Other states have county and state taxpayer-funded hospitals that help pick up part of the acute care patient cost, particularly the uninsured,” said Hopkins. “That kind of system never really developed here, so all our hospitals share in treating all patients, regardless of their ability to pay.” –

The payer mix at St. Mary’s already includes a relatively high percentage of uninsured, non-paying “charity cases.” Now that Hoboken UMC will truly be a public facility, it’s a pretty sure bet that uninsured and underinsured patients will be shunted to Hoboken in increasingly large numbers, making a tough financial situation even worse.

9 years 10 months ago

NYC is closing hopitals and Hoboken is buying one.. does this make any sense?

9 years 10 months ago

Budget cuts would tick off the employees, some of whom live in town and vote. The mayor is taking over the hospital to help himself out politically by patronizing to these employees (he is buying votes). If he took over the hospital AND cut wages/expenses, he would lose these potential supporters forever.