County officials sue the company that manages Bergen Regional Medical Center

November 10, 2016

Bergen County officials filed suit against the company that manages Bergen Regional Medical Center on Thursday, claiming the company is “sabotaging’’ the bidding process for new operators for the Paramus hospital.

Determining who will run the state’s largest hospital is a consequential issue for Bergen County Executive James Tedesco, who has called for a new contract with more financial transparency and better oversight of the county-owned hospital.

A Dec. 2 deadline is looming for a dozen entities interested in managing the hospital to submit proposals.

However, county officials say they can’t complete the process because the company currently running the hospital, Bergen Regional Medical Center LP, is withholding vital financial and operational information. That may force interested bidders — and competitors — to walk away, according to the lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in Hackensack.

Three principals of the current for-profit company managing Bergen Regional are among he bidders.

“The lack of cooperation by BRMCLP is sabotaging the BCIA’s ability to conduct a fair and open bidding process, dramatically interfering with the future of [the hospital], upon which thousands of patients within a particularly vulnerable population rely,’’ the lawsuit states.

County taxpayers could be on the hook if there’s a significant cost increase associated with delays in transitioning to new operators, the suit warns.

A 19-year-contract between the company and the Bergen County Improvement Authority is set to expire in March. The selection of a management company will impact regional healthcare and county taxpayers for decades to come.

But a hospital spokeswoman said any delays are the fault of the BCIA which has known for nearly two decades when the contract expires.

“We vehemently disagree with the claim that the BRMCLP has not fully cooperated with the bidding process requests,’’ said spokeswoman Donnalee Corierri. “Our primary focus has always been on managing the day to day operations of the medical center and ensuring the provision of safe, quality care for our patients and residents.’’

The suit requests that the court appoint a “special fiscal agent’’ to oversee the efforts to obtain essential information in order to appoint a manager in four months. Lawyers for the BCIA have also asked for an injunction to prevent the for-profit managers from altering, deleting or destroying information that would aid a future manager in providing patient care.

Among the bidders is a group of North Jersey hospitals — Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, Hackensack University Health Network, Christian Health Care Center in Wyckoff and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.

The 1,070-bed hospital provides long-term care, psychiatric and addiction services, as well as acute care for some of the state’s neediest patients. Bergen Regional is a linchpin to the state’s mental health system as more psychiatric hospitals close and local hospitals reduce or shutter behavioral health units.

Two of the three principals of the current management company, Hersch Krausz and David Sebbag, are interested in bidding as Bergen Regional Medical Center LP. A third principal, Robert Salazar, has submitted qualifications to bid as Progressive Health Management, which he incorporated in May in Hackensack.

The hospital takes in about $200 million in annual revenues and more than 80 percent of its funding comes from local, state and federal taxpayers.

With just four months to go until the contract expires, the managers have responded with incomplete information, delays and denials of access to critical information and personnel, the lawsuit states.

“Without immediate cooperation from the defendant, there is imminent risk of irreparable harm to BCIA because of likely disruptions in patient care and the loss of qualified bidders that might otherwise come and seek to manage and operate the facility if given access to the necessary information,’’ the suit states.

Email: layton@northjersey.com