NJ dermatology practice suddenly closes, leaving patients in the dark
🔴 South Jersey Dermatology Centers in Toms River and Manahawkin have been closed since mid-February
🔴 Patients say they were given no notice
🔴 The owner blames a business dispute
Patients of an Ocean County skin care facility were surprised in recent weeks to find out that its three locations closed without notice.
Offices of the South Jersey Dermatology Center in Toms River and the Manahawkin section of Stafford and the Toms River-Surgical Center appear to have closed mid-February. A sign on the door at the dermatology center in Toms River said the office was closed "today" with no specific date.
FedEx and UPS left messages on the door about missed deliveries dated Feb. 20, 21 and 22.
Attempts by New Jersey 101.5 to call each office number and the central scheduling number on the center's website were met by a message that the call could not be completed as dialed.
Angry patients left handwritten messages on the sign about missed appointments and messages not being returned.
Owner Jeff Masessa told New Jersey 101.5 that the offices were forced to close because of a sale of his company, the Adult and Pediatric Dermatology Group, gone bad. His company also has locations in Florida and South Carolina.
Masessa took over the business when his brother, Dr. Joseph Masessa, died in a plane crash in 2019.
Deal signed, offices close
Maessa said he had a signed asset purchase agreement with Schweiger Dermatology Group of New York allowing them to take full control at the close of business on Feb. 17.
The next day, Schweiger sent an email informing "some other parties" that they were not completing the deal, according to Masessa, who said he was not sent the email. Schweiger was able to close the offices and Masessa couldn't do anything about it.
"We agreed on every term, and it was going to be completed. They just didn't follow through with their financial obligation. They had signed over all the assignment of leases from all the landlords to them, all the employees signed employment contracts with them. They terminated supervisory collaboration with the PAs and MP over to theirs. Dr. Schweiger made an independent phone call to each individual person welcoming them to the practice. They did Zoom calls to all the employees welcoming them to the practice," Masessa said.
Trying to reopen
Masessa said he is in the process of trying to reopen the offices but it could take as long as 30 days.
"We are just working closely with the government authorities to take care of the patients and the employees and talking to other dermatologists about reopening the practice," Masessa said.
Schweiger on Wednesday afternoon did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information about the sale. Spokeswoman Laura Fink told Florida TV station WPBF that they were in discussion with Masessa but that nothing was finalized.
"We have no affiliation with them," Fink told WPBF.
Massesa disputed the comment.
"Why would you have supplies in your name mailed to the addresses that you were purchasing if there was no concrete agreement?" Massesa said.
"Numerous complaints" received by the state
Robert Rowan of the state Division of Consumer Affairs told New Jersey 101.5 that they have received "numerous complaints" about the New Jersey offices being closed. Massesa told them the closure was only temporary.
According to state regulations, if a medical practice anticipates remaining closed for more than three months, they must "establish a procedure by which patients can obtain a copy of the treatment records or acquiesce in the transfer of those records" at no charge.
The practice needs to post a notice of cessation and establish a plan for the procedure for retrieving records and make a reasonable effort to notify anyone treated within the past six months about their records.
The company's website says they specialize in dermatologic surgery, skin cancer and cosmetic dermatology. All procedures are performed in the office.
Schweiger Dermatology Group, meanwhile, has 90 offices in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They already have practices in Toms River 2 miles from the South Jersey Dermatology office and 5 miles from the Manahwakin office.