Despite some '09 recovery, New Jersey hospitals still struggling

While the economy seems to be easing, New Jersey hospitals are still struggling, according to a new survey released by the state's hospital trade group.

The study, by the New Jersey Hospital Association, concludes that almost half (43 percent) of the state's acute care hospitals have laid off employees. Forty-eight percent eliminated vacant positions last year, researchers concluded. They did this in the wake of major financial stresses; 82 percent, for example, saw an increase in charity care patients last year. Also, every hospital said it saw a decline in fund raising and philanthropy revenue.

Other signs of continued economic stress included the following:

* One out of three of the state's hospitals froze employee wages in 2009.

* About one-quarter of New Jersey hospitals implemented a hiring freeze last year.

* About one-quarter of the state's hospitals cut service in 2009--including pediatric inpatient services and behavioral health services--up from 17 percent in 2008.

There were a few bright posts in the report, however. About 61 percent of facilities said hospital use climbed in 2009, and 67 percent saw growth in elective procedures.

To learn more about the study:
- read this New Jersey Hospital Association press release

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