3 Councilmen Vow To Keep St. Mary Open Temporary City Funds Pledged

Posted: May 05, 1988

Three City Council members yesterday promised a temporary city bailout of St. Mary Hospital in Fishtown - pledging to help keep the hospital open until its management can meet with prospective buyers.

Councilmen James J. Tayoun, Angel Ortiz and David Cohen promised the hospital financial support during a seven-hour hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Afterward, they and Fishtown community leaders led a rally near the hospital to support the 128-year-old facility.

Meanwhile, Bankruptcy Court Judge David A. Scholl extended until May 13 an injunction that has prevented closing of the emergency room.

Scholl also ordered the Franciscan Health System, which owns and manages St. Mary and 11 other hospitals, not to lay off 100 employees tomorrow as planned and to postpone taking any other action that would empty the hospital. About 40 patients remain at St. Mary.

Last week, St. Mary filed for protection from its creditors under federal bankruptcy laws and announced plans to close before the end of June.

The hospital's surprise announcement cited a $4 million deficit this fiscal year and projected losses of $23 million over the next four years.

Ortiz denounced hospital officials for deciding to close without contacting the city or state about possible avenues of funding.

He called the hospital's closing of its emergency room last week - temporarily halted by court order late Friday - an example of "bad faith management" and "damned criminal" behavior on the part of the executives. He said St. Mary officials failed to plan adequately for the care of patients who were turned away.

Council will do everything in its power to maintain the hospital, Ortiz said. He said the city's backing of a bond issue of about $50 million to keep St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in the city was an example of just how much aid the city might be able to muster.

James O'Connor, an executive of a South Jersey health care company, testified that he has held informal talks with two Philadelphia hospitals that declined to be named but are interested in a possible purchase of St. Mary.

O'Connor said both hospitals are familiar with St. Mary's financial problems, but would not pursue a deal if the hospital shuts down before they can examine its records and meet with hospital management.

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