Hackensack Meridian Health will delay the closure of its on-site child care centers until the end of December.

The company initially announced Thursday that the centers in Brick, Edison, Hackensack, Neptune, Red Bank and Palisades would close at the end of September. The news was met with criticism by those who depend on the in-house facilities.

An online petition was posted in hopes of persuading Hackensack Meridian Health to reverse course.

The state's largest healthcare provider said in a brief statement Tuesday it would delay the closure to give parents more time to find alternative care for their children.

"We will continue to evaluate any and all options for a permanent solution and remain committed to supporting our team members and child care families during this transition," the healthcare provider said.

Critics remain vigilant

The creator of the online petition who identified themself as "HMH FORLIFE" said the delay also gives them more time to work towards keeping the centers open.

"THIS DOES NOT MEAN WE CAN RELAX," the petition's creator wrote.

In a longer statement posted on the Save HMH Childcare Facebook page from executive vice president Linda McHugh, the company said the "staffing pressures" that led to the decision are expected to continue.

"We will do our best to ensure proper staffing using both our existing staff and temporary staff, as necessary," McHugh wrote. "Please note we are committed to providing you with additional information and resources to support you as you navigate future child care options."

The hospital system said in its initial announcement that it had reached an agreement with a child care provider for a discounted rate. The company would also provide a six-month subsidy to those who needed help financially.

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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