Thursday, December 18, 2008
Last updated: Thursday December 18, 2008, 7:34 AM
BY MICHAEL GARTLAND
The Bergen County Freeholder Board lent their support Wednesday night to Hackensack University Medical Center’s proposal to reopen the former Pascack Valley Hospital.
The decision took place before a crowd in Hackensack that numbered more than 150, who came out to voice both support and criticism of the plan. The resolution to back HUMC passed 6-0, with one abstention.
Thom Misciagna, the president of the Bergen County Building and Construction Trades Council, said the plan would be a boon for laborers facing a tough economy in the coming year.
“We want the hospital to go ahead for a number of reasons — certainly jobs,” he said, then gestured toward the crowd. “That’s why these guys are here. … They’re frightened.”
Misciagna estimated that proceeding with the proposal would create about 200 construction jobs, as well as permanent positions for nurses, doctors, technicians and maintenance people.
But not everyone in attendance was there to support HUMC’s plan to reopen the Westwood hospital. Representatives from The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center said that the proposal would add more hospital beds to an area that already has an excess.
Jeff Lieto, the vice president for The Valley Hospital, said that the issue is not about “the health-care industry against organized labor. The issue is about the regulation of the health-care industry through a fair process.”
Lieto cited state-commissioned reports that said there were too many beds in Pascack Valley Hospital when it was in operation.
“The beds that it held were not necessary,” he said.
Tony Orlando, the CFO of Englewood Hospital, said that an excess of beds makes it more difficult for a health-care facility to cover costs. A new hospital would add even more beds to a region that has an abundance, he said.
“Taking away patients makes us inefficient,” he said.
Leaders from the communities around the now-shuttered Pascack Valley Hospital offered support for the Hackensack Medical Center extension as well.
Westwood Mayor John Birkner Jr. described HUMC’s plan as a “vision.” He noted that businesses around the facility have closed and jobs have been lost as a result.
“This particular hospital can survive, and Hackensack has presented the plan to make it happen,” he said.