Union Questions Sale of Buttonwood

The Burlington County freeholders say they want to sell Buttonwood because it has been operating at a deficit for a decade and is expected to lose $4.5 million this year.

If Buttonwood Hospital is sold, the CWA Local 1036 says some patients may be forced out, despite the freeholders' assurances that the hospital/nursing home will remain open for at least another decade.   

The freeholders have promised that the new owner will be required to retain Buttonwood's 200 patients and maintain "current services" if the hospital is auctioned off next month.  But Local 1036, which represents the hospital's 319 employees, says the new owner may end up providing "only 'assisted living' type care" instead of the 24-hour care that some of the patients need.  The more needy patients would then have to move to another facility.  

The 30-bed psychiatric ward may also be relocated if the sale goes through, the union says.  The freeholders have said the new owner would simply have to make sure it continues to operate the ward either on-site or elsewhere. 

At the last two public hearings, employees and the families of the patients urged the freeholders to reconsider. (See: http://bit.ly/wBkXOd)  The freeholders say the sale might be necessary because the hospital is expecting to operate at a $4 million loss this year and at even greater deficits in the future.  

"The $4 million itself equates to $24" for a taxpaying household, the union says.  "That's $2 bucks per month."