A state panel has taken an important step designed to help to save the ailing Memorial Hospital of Salem County.
The State Health Planning Board voted 3 to 1 last week to recommend New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal OK the sale of the hospital to Community Healthcare Associates.
A spokesperson for the health department confirmed the vote.
New Jersey-based CHA, which has turned around other failing state hospitals, announced earlier this year it wanted to purchase the Mannington Township facility.
If the sale goes through, the hospital, opened in 1919, will also get a new name — Salem Medical Center.
“Today’s vote is an important affirmation that the plan we have put forward is one that will assure the availability of high quality healthcare in a currently underserved area,” said Bill Colgan, a managing partner at CHA.
“As has been our commitment since day one, we will continue to work closely with all key stakeholders, most importantly the patients we’ll serve, to make the new Salem Medical Center a valued community asset.”
It wasn’t clear what prompted the lone vote against the deal.
Elnahal now has 120 days to either approve or reject the board’s recommendation.
Officials from CHA, which has purchased and turned around other failing or closed hospitals in New Jersey, said they are still hoping to close the deal by the end of the year, less than three weeks away.
“This is great news for our hospital and for our community,” said George Gennaoui, spokesman for Memorial Hospital about the state’s action.
Memorial is owned by the Tennessee-based for-profit Community Health Systems. CHA plans a payment in lieu of taxes since the hospital will operate under it as a non-profit.
The purchase price for the hospital at 310 Salem-Woodstown Road in Mannington, is just $3 million, according to papers filed in connection with the sale.
CHA has already promised to hire most of the current 300-plus employees.
The Salem Health and Wellness Foundation has committed to spending tens of millions of dollars from its coffers to help CHA upgrade the hospital infrastructure and equipment, a move officials will help attract top medical staff — and patients.
The endorsement of the sale came with 34 conditions from the state.
Among them, CHA must operate the facility for at least five years.