Oversight of state's largest hospital sits on Christie's desk

Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Legislators say they are worried that Gov. Christie may make changes to a bill that would create an authority to oversee Bergen Regional Medical Center.

The bill, S2361, passed the Senate 25-11 and the Assembly 52-25 in June. If Christie signs it, the legislation would create a committee to oversee Bergen Regional, moving the hospital out from under the auspices of the Bergen County Improvement Authority.

The 11-member committee would include representatives with expertise in the financial and healthcare fields.

Proponents of the legislation hope the committee would be able to more closely monitor the hospital's administration and eradicate some of the problems the Paramus facility has seen during its 19 year partnership with BCIA.

Specifically, legislators point to the reports of violence by patients toward caregivers, which earned the hospital a citation from federal officials.

"I would hope the governor realized the issues of the sins of the past that we would be able to correct," said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), a sponsor of the bill.

A spokesman for Christie said in an email that "anyone can speculate" and that the office doesn't comment on pending legislation.

Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), a sponsor, said that Republicans did not vote for the bill over the wage requirements it contained. 

The bill states that workers employed for services by a "private entity that has entered into a public-private partnership agreement with a county hospital authority" won't be paid less than the "prevailing wage rate," as determined by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development.

Weinberg said that the particular provision is not "a major portion of the bill."

If the bill were to ultimately fail, the county would "pursue other ways" to create oversight, said Alicia D'Alessandro, spokeswoman for Bergen County Executive James Tedesco, who supports the bill.

Bergen Regional oversees long term behavioral health and acute term care, as well as offers patients psychiatric and abuse treatments. The county's contract with BCIA is set to expire in March 2017.

Sara Jerde may be reached at sjerde@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SaraJerde.