Sarlo slams state Health dept. on Bergen hospital plans

State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Wood-Ridge) sharply criticized the state Department of Health for refusing to give Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) more time to re-open the 128-bed Pascack Valley Hospital, and said the state could have granted an extension to let HUMC make a case for relicensing of the Bergen County facility.

Sarlo says that discussions should have continued into next year and not been “short-circuited” by lame duck Health Commissioner Heather Howard, who is expected to leave office with Gov. Jon Corzine on January 19.

“Hackensack University Medical Center made a strong case for why it should be given additional time to arrange the re-opening of Pascack Valley Hospital as an acute care facility,” Sen. Sarlo (D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic) said. “Commissioner Heather Howard’s refusal to grant an extension denies the people of North Jersey an additional choice when making healthcare decisions. It also shuts the door on the potential for opportunities for good-paying jobs at Pascack Valley.”

Sarlo, a Bergen County Democrat and incoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said that HUMC officials have negotiated in good faith with other hospitals in the area.

 “I am at a loss to understand why in her final days in office Commissioner Howard would not take advantage of the additional time available to all the parties in this matter. Instead, she chose to issue a ruling that will have far-reaching healthcare and economic consequences long after she is gone,” Sarlo said. “This is too important a decision to be made on the way out the door. The prudent approach would be to allow the incoming health commissioner time to become familiar with the record in this application and work out a solution that is satisfactory to all the parties involved.” Sarlo slams state Health dept. on Bergen hospital plans