'We need it': Salem hospital staff, residents support Inspira takeover at public hearing (2024)

CARNEYS POINT — An Inspira Health Network takeover of Salem Medical Center is the best path for shoring up the small community hospital's staffing and finances, according to testimony from employees, residents, and community leaders.

Announced late last year, a proposed Inspira and SMC merger was thrown open on Wednesday for public comment before heading to Trenton for a decision from the state attorney general. If that decision is favorable, a state Superior Court is the next and final stop for review and proposal.

Joanna Rider-Bey, a nursing instructor at Salem Community College, said she does not want the Mannington hospital closed but otherwise supports a takeover. She said she has worked for both systems.

“I am so looking forward to this merger,” Rider-Bey said. “Salem community hospital needs this. They have the best nursing staff I have ever seen. … We need it.”

More:Inspira unveils emergency room for senior patients

More:Salem Medical Center plans to merge into Inspira Health Network

Speakers at the hour-plus hearing uniformly described a dire outcome without a consolidation.

Salem County is a sparsely populated, at about 65,000 people, and largely rural area, with great amounts of farming. It also has sizeable low-income populations and poor public transit.

Inspira already operates the county’s other hospital in the borough of Elmer, close to Cumberland County. The health system also has two hospitals in Cumberland and one in Gloucester County, as well as an extensive network of related community facilities.

'We need it': Salem hospital staff, residents support Inspira takeover at public hearing (1)

“The way healthcare is divided, and I know this from referral patterns, there’s sort of an ‘East’ Salem County and a ‘West’ Salem County,” said Dr. Daniel Timmerman, chief of surgery at Salem Medical Center. “We are on the western side of Salem County. The middle line is Woodstown.”

Timmerman said western residents generally live no farther than 15 miles from the Mannington hospital on Route 45. The Elmer hospital is roughly a 21-mile trip from Pennsville Township, the most populous community and located along the Delaware River.

“So, without this hospital where it’s situated, we’re going to leave a lot of people needing healthcare,” Timmerman said.

Salem Medical Center switched from a for-profit operation to a not-for-profit operation in February 2019. Salem County Hospital Corp. is its owner.

Hospital officials said the public health mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic forced the center to stop offering many procedures. The loss of revenue was significant and has not been made up, Torres said.

“Without this partnership, there is a strong possibility that there will be a healthcare desert in this county, compromising our residents’ health and access to care,” Torres said.

The proposed acquisition has support from area state legislators. State Sen. Edward Durr, a former longtime Salem County resident, and Assemblywomen Beth Swayer and Bethanne McCarthy all testified in favor of the sale.

“I have two children, so I’ve made many trips to the hospital,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said both organizations have deep community roots going back more than a century in South Jersey. She said their staffs often have worked for both systems, their services often overlap geographically, and Inspira has the ability to recruit and keep staff.

Sawyer said the center nursing staff is its anchor and what rallies the community. "They deserve more stability and a clear vision for their future,” she said.

Sawyer said the center also needs help with its emergency department that Inspira, which operates five emergency departments, can provide.

Salem nurses belong to Local 5412 of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees. The local is supporting the merger, registered nurse Pamela Misenti said.

“Since we organized our union with HPAE over a decade ago, the staff has been through a living nightmare in the succession of owners,” Misenti said. “We have lost numerous staff and services due to mismanagement, experienced threats to our union status, and worked under horrible conditions.

“In fact, it took us until 2019 to finally settle our first union contract with the current owners,” Misenti said. “Who then immediately went on to violate the contract.”

Misenti said the union hopes for a “positive relationship” with Inspira.

The hearing on Wednesday was a joint undertaking of the state Department of Law and Public Safety and state Department of Health.

Along with representations from the two hospital systems, the public hearing testimony will form a record the state attorney general will use to decide whether or not to recommend approval.

A state Superior Court judge makes the final determination, according to Kavin Mistry, a deputy director at the Division of Law.

Mistry said the center still will be "a distinct entity” after the merger.

Mistry said the acquisition review process started on Oct. 15, 2021 when Salem Medical Center notified the Office of the Attorney General of the proposed acquisition.

On July 7, the attorney general determined that the hospital’s application was complete.

Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey more than 30 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer forThe Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.

Have a tip? Reach out at jsmith@thedailyjournal.com.Help support local journalism with a subscription.

'We need it': Salem hospital staff, residents support Inspira takeover at public hearing (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated:

Views: 5955

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 92% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.