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Coutinho & Spencer: Higher Ed Reorg Needs Thoughtful Review & Analysis; Can’t Be Done at Expense of University Hospital

(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer and Assemblyman Albert Coutinho (both D-Essex) released the following statement Thursday:

“While Senate President Sweeney’s legislation provides plenty of long awaited details for a reorganization of critical state higher education assets, we can’t support it as is at this time and ask all parties involved to give this plan the thoughtful and thorough review it requires.
“We have never been, nor are we now, against making Rutgers University as strong as it can be, but serious questions remain and an issue this critical to the state’s future cannot be forced through on an artificial deadline.
“Our prime concern upon an initial review of the bill is that it does nothing to guarantee the continuity of the state’s largest safety net hospital, University Hospital in Newark, and will inevitably lead to its closure a few years down the road. This is bad public policy from a health care delivery perspective, and a violation of the State of New Jersey’s agreement with the residents of the City of Newark, as part of the agreements that arose from the riots of 1967.
“University Hospital, which is a critical provider of health care in the City of Newark, is also one of the premier trauma centers in the country and provides an invaluable life-saving service to all of northern New Jersey. While many folks involved in the process try to assure us that no one wants to close University Hospital, someone needs to explain how an institution that due to its safety net mission loses approximately $30 million a year can survive in the long term without a direct financial guarantee from the state.
“This legislation detaches University Hospital from the state medical school, and sets it up on its own without an assured recurring revenue Dest. Make no mistake about it, with 75 percent of the hospital’s customers on charity care, Medicaid or Medicare, it is not a question of if it will close, but when it will close.
“We also have several additional concerns regarding governance issues pertaining to a new post-reorganization Rutgers University and what it will mean to Newark-based assets.
“We want to reiterate our sincere desire of working on a plan together with all stakeholders that will strengthen our higher education system in the state, but cannot agree with a system that will continue to neglect issues important to the City of Newark.”