After postponing the closing date of its childcare centers until the end of the year, Hackensack Meridian Health will use the extra time to review its decision and consider ideas that could keep the sites open, an executive said Thursday.
Mark Sparta, president and CEO of Hackensack University Medical Center, said the health system has set up a task force in response to parents who have noticed the difficulties that the closure of the centers will create.
“We fully appreciate and feel the anguish that the community and those who have served have expressed following that announcement and have (since) decided to extend it, and will consider all viable options to keep those centers open,” Sparta said. .
Sparta made her comments at the annual meeting for Hackensack University Medical Center, the flagship academic hospital for Hacksenack Meridian based in Edison.
The health system created a firestorm last week when it announced it would close its six on-site childcare centers in September, saying the service was unsustainable in part because it was struggling to find enough staff. She changed course this week and said she would delay the closures until the end of the year.
Moreover:Hackensack Meridian Health will keep nurseries open until the end of 2022
Hackensack University Medical Center houses one of the centers, the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Child Care and Learning Center. Others are in Neptune, Red Bank, Brick, Edison and North Bergen. They are open to both the community and employees, both of whom have come to appreciate the long working hours of the centers that have supported parents who don’t have a typical 9 to 5 job.
The Hackensack hospital meeting, held virtually due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, marked the first chance for parents to turn to its leadership.
They used their time to highlight what the center meant for them and their children. They noted the contradictions between the hospital’s mission to serve the community and its decision to take a vital resource from their lives. And they offered money, ideas and time to keep the facilities open.
James Clavijo and his wife are first-time parents whose 14-month-old baby attends Palisades Child Care Center in North Bergen. And he said the staff felt like an extension of his family, giving him peace of mind.
He said everyone at some point in their life benefited from childcare.
“I can’t understand how people … can sit there and now say that this is an expendable service that we can all do without,” said Clavijo. “I believe the communities you are serving through your institutions, through the care you offer, will be affected by this.”
Moreover:The biggest gift in the hospital’s history will fund a nine-story pavilion
Parents’ questions came after Sparta outlined last year’s highlights: the hospital is about to complete the $ 714 million, nine-story Helena Theurer pavilion; continues to provide state-of-the-art care; partnered with other hospitals and community groups to try to improve the health of residents; it took some time to celebrate the nurses and other employees who were pushed to the brink during the pandemic.
It also seemed to give an idea of the decision to close the nurseries.
He said the hospital’s $ 87.7 million operating profit would have been extremely slim were it not for pandemic aid received by the federal government.
“It is not sustainable for us to be able to make the kind of investments I have just looked at,” Sparta said. “Whether it’s investment in facilities … or technology investments to better serve our community.”
The parents didn’t seem persuaded. Some employees said that childcare has enabled them to provide better care for their patients. A doctor at Hackensack University Medical Center said his wife, also a doctor, had to take two days off work to try to find another childcare center. Parents who were not dependent said the centers were also an integral part of their careers.
“I am just crushed, as many are, that you have made the decision to close your daycare centers,” said Suzanne Wolsink, a parent. “It just seems to go against your messages and your organization’s core values.”
Michael L. Diamond is a business reporter who has written about the New Jersey economy and healthcare industry for over 20 years. He can be contacted at [email protected].