Business of Well-being

Corporate Wellness and Urban Hospitals: A Partnership for Good Health

Corporate wellness is often, as a matter of physical location and the ready accessibility to doctors and nurses, a critical part of the success of urban hospitals. That is, companies with offices within or near a major city, separated by nothing more than a subway stop or a bridge or tunnel, which serves as the arterial route from the pulsating rhythm of Manhattan and its asphalt roads, concrete buildings, and stone and glass towers - this heart keeps beating, and the hearts of individual employees keep pumping, because an urban hospital is there to save lives and serve the needs of workers and their families.

There is no better illustration of this fact than the revival of the Bayonne Medical Center, founded in 1888, and thriving once again because of the efforts of entrepreneurs with a professional goal and a personal mission, that urban hospitals should not close - that this hospital on 29th Street and Avenue E in Bayonne, New Jersey, must not die.

Because patients deserve the best care from the best health care professionals. Companies need to echo this sentiment, as a voice for their respective workers, and as reminder to the public at large that urban hospitals must not become soon-to-be-shuttered relics of a bygone era nor targets for a wrecking ball.

For, without these hospitals and their permanence within a community, in the absence of this brick-and-mortar, multi-story house of healing, a community - alongside its spiritual homes of healing, its churches and synagogues, as well as its schools and academies - all will collapse well before a contractor lowers the plunger on a dynamite detonator.

Yet, in this harmony between tradition and medical advances, there is an intense media campaign waged by insurance companies against for-profit hospitals in general and Bayonne Medical Center in particular. (Please note: I am not an employee of or a consultant to any hospital; and I hold no brief against insurance companies. But this situation is too grave to ignore, as it impacts the very lives of people who symbolize the idea of corporate wellness.)

Put another way, a business cannot succeed - and corporate wellness cannot flourish - if there is no urban hospital for people to receive wellness treatments. Thus, it is wrong to attempt to weaken or destroy the one thing urban hospitals need: The freedom to bring insurance companies to the bargaining table, which would not exist without the ability to terminate a contract.

Remember, too, that the financial stability of an urban hospital depends on its right to renegotiate rates at levels that maintain the economic health of such a vital institution.

Saving the Houses of Healing: The 'Bayonne Model' for Success

My interest in this subject, as both a scientist and a writer, has everything to do with preserving the integrity of hospitals. When I review the statistics about urban hospitals, and when I pause (out of shock and dismay) before the facts, that less than 75 percent of urban hospital patients have insurance, and that the past decade is a sad catalog of the closing of nearly 40 urban hospitals in New Jersey, I say: "No more!"

Thankfully, Bayonne Medical Center offers a solution to this crisis. Its trio of investors, who are the same individuals who infused the hospital with their own capital, improved management and rescued the place from bankruptcy; prove that an urban hospital can continue to be the foundation of a community.

This process starts by addressing the inadequate payments insurance companies have been making to hospitals, Bayonne Medical Center include. Following that restructuring, and by canceling existing insurance contracts (because of the refusal of these companies to reach an amicable agreement), 95 percent of Bayonne Medical Center's patients now have some type of insurance payment.

Viable and financially independent, the "Bayonne Solution" is a plan that works, period. The duty for those with a commitment to corporate wellness is to be forever vigilant, combating the pressure by insurance companies to lower payments and negotiate downward.

That "negotiation" is, in fact, nothing of the sort: It is buck-passing, forcing urban hospitals to shoulder fees and withstand financial penalties that come at the expense of their own survival and the health of their patients. In short, we must give urban hospitals the latitude they need - and the leverage they can exercise - to exact true health care reform.

Bayonne Medical Center's actions are a testament to the promotion of wellness as a corporate ideal and the preservation of an ideal community. Long live the urban hospitals of this nation.

About the Author

Michael D. Shaw is a columnist, biochemist and protege of the late Willard Libby, the 1960 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He writes about a variety of subjects including wellness, health care, and business leadership.

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