New Jersey's largest healthcare provider confirmed Friday that it will shut down childcare operations at its facilities at the end of September, while a petition to reverse the decision gained thousands of signatures in about a day.

Saying in a statement that it was choosing to "focus our efforts on our core mission of patient care," Hackensack Meridian Health told New Jersey 101.5 its childcare centers are scheduled to close Sept. 30.

While stating the decision had been made "after deliberate and careful consideration of all options," HMH specifically cited staffing as a challenge.

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"Hackensack Meridian Health will provide a six-month subsidy to impacted team members. Additionally, the network has arranged a discount with a major childcare provider," the statement said, although not identifying the provider at this time.

However, those provisions did not satisfy a Change.org user using the handle "HMH FORLIFE" who started a petition Thursday that had garnered more than 6,000 signatures by Friday evening.

"They are choosing money over family — as well as patient care," the petition reads, calling the decision "wholly unacceptable."

Some of the comments from signers of the petition were even more pointed.

"My son went to the daycare near my facility and there are still teachers/caregivers there that cared for him as an infant. He's now 25!" Jennifer Cotter wrote.

"The reasons for closing make zero sense for multiple reasons," said signer Emily Totaro.

One thing both sides agreed on is that the change is not a reflection of "the dedication and excellence of the childcare teams," which the petition said was a phrase included in a letter to employees.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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