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Stories From Main Street: Sussex Community Fights To Save NJ’s Smallest Hospital

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(file / credit: clipart.com)

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SUSSEX, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - Doctors and residents are fighting to keep New Jersey’s smallest hospital open.

Inpatient services might be discontinued at Saint Clare’s Hospital in Sussex.

WCBS 880’s Sean Adams On The Story

What would you do to save your community’s hospital?

“I sat in front of the A&P. I put a sign on my scooter and I sat up there and collected signatures,” said senior citizen Doris Hoffman, who gathered a thousand signatures. She suffers from several chronic illnesses and relies on Saint Clare’s.

“It’s a place where my brother recuperated after being kicked by a cow,” Former New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Charles Kuperus told Adams. “And closing the inpatient services is disastrous for this community because we’re not close to somewhere else where people can go.”

Cardiologist Dr. Tom Lanzilotti wrote a letter of appeal to Pope Benedict XVI.

“Saint Clare’s, as a Catholic hospital, has a mission and their mission is to serve the poor and the needy,” Dr. Lanzilotti said. “It’s going to hurt the poor. It’s going to hurt the elderly. People who are most vulnerable.”

“There is another good hospital in the county. We’re not at all demeaning their ability. But it’s too far away” Dr. Denise Autotte said. “Newton Hospital, it’s too far away.”

It’s 15 miles away on rural roads through the mountains of northwest New Jersey.

“When my kids were stung with a bee, they had an allergic reaction, that ride would have been too long. They had to come to Sussex,” Kuperus said.

Stories from Main Street - Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

Stories from Main Street – Photo: Evan Bindelglass / WCBS 880

RELATED: More Stories From Main Street

Supporters of the hospital are passionate, but love doesn’t pay the bills.

“It’s just not sustainable. You’ve got a hospital there with two to three admissions a day, about eight inpatient surgeries a month,” said Saint Clare’s Health System CEO Les Hirsch.

He said he figures the least utilized hospital in New Jersey loses $4 million per year. The emergency room would survive, but inpatient services would not.

“It’s not just in New Jersey, but it’s what’s going on throughout the United States,” Hirsch told Adams. “We have to separate the emotions that certainly we recognize and appreciate. But we also have to separate that from the facts.”

It is difficult to argue with the bottom line, but the hearty folks of Sussex are giving it a try.

“I said I was going to make a big stink if they closed it,” Hoffman said. “I’m not going to give up.”

Do you see a way to save the hospital? Sound off in the comments section below.