In the nation’s ongoing struggle over healthcare, 2016 proved to be an unstable period. Donald Trump promised he would immediately repeal and replace “Obamacare,” although that hasn’t quite happened yet. The New Jersey Policy Perspective, a think tank on public policy, said an ACA repeal would severely damage the state’s healthcare capabilities. It would cause 1.1 million residents to lose benefits, and slash $4.2 billion in annual federal funding.
On the local level, hospitals are watching and waiting, but continuing to add new services. They are also competing with the increasing number of urgent care clinics.
Here is a rundown of what’s new in heath care and hospitals in Hudson County this year.
Hackensack UMC Palisades continues its successes
Hudson County has seven hospitals. Five of them are run by three primary medical providers – CarePoint Health (three hospitals), Hackensack UMC Palisades, and RWJBarnabas Jersey City Medical Center.
Two years ago, Hackensack University Health Network (which now falls under the Hackensack Meridian Health umbrella) merged with North Bergen’s Palisades Medical Center to form Hackensack UMC Palisades. The hospital at 7600 River Road, in conjunction with overall network efforts, has continued creating new services and expanding on existing ones. In 2015, the hospital opened the John Theurer Cancer Center designed to offer advanced cancer treatment.
But their efforts against the disease were only beginning. Last year Hackensack Meridian Health
announced a 10-year partnership with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer center. The merger is designed to bring the two organizations together to find more cures for cancer sooner. In time, both organizations will create a formal joint venture to own and operate new ambulatory care centers in New Jersey locations they do not presently serve.
“This momentous partnership between the world’s first cancer hospital and New Jersey’s premier hospital system will rewrite the future of cancer care in New Jersey,” said M.D. Craig Thompson, who is also president and CEO for Memorial Sloan Kettering. “Together, we will provide the best quality and value-based care for our patients, discover new treatments for cancer, and train a new generation of physicians and health professionals for tomorrow.”
“Hackensack Meridian Health and Memorial Sloan Kettering will discover new treatments for cancer and train together,” added Robert Garrett, Hackensack Meridian Health’s co-CEO. “The standard of care that we develop will be implemented at all Hackensack Meridian Health and Memorial Sloan Kettering partnership sites alike. The sheer size and scope of what we do will impact cancer care everywhere.”
The maneuver might prove especially beneficial in New Jersey, a state that, according to the American Cancer Society, has a higher cancer incidence rate than the national average.
“Providing our communities with patient-centered, affordable, quality care has always been the goal of Hackensack Meridian Health,” said Patrick Young, president of Population Health for Hackensack Meridian Health.
This year, Palisades announced a $32,000 community service merit scholarship program, to be split among students from eight local high schools.
Two graduating seniors each from select Hudson County high schools will receive $2,000 in merit scholarships. They include North Bergen’s High Tech High School, Hoboken Charter School, Hoboken High School, West New York’s Memorial High School, North Bergen High School, Union City High School, and Weehawken High School. The winners are expected to be announced in May.
Palisades has won awards of its own. The American Heart Association recognized Palisades with its 2016 “Get With The Guidelines Gold-Plus Quality Achievement Awards” for its treatment of heart failure and stroke patients.
Palisades earned the honor by meeting certain quality achievement measures for diagnosing and treating heart failure patients.
Those measures include patient evaluation, proper medicine use, and proper use of aggressive risk-reduction therapies. Palisades also made the organization’s Target: Heart Failure Honor roll for the year. The Target Heart Failure initiative gives hospitals educational tools, prevention programs, and treatment guidelines to keep heart failure patients from returning to the hospital.
The hospitals also received The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association’s Heart checkmark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers. Officials from the Joint Commission heavily evaluated the hospital’s on-site adherence to stroke-related standards and requirements.
Awards a plenty at Jersey City Medical Center
Jersey City Medical Center, the only non-profit hospital in Hudson County, plans to expand both at its primary location in Jersey City and at a planned satellite location in Bayonne this summer, when RWJBarnabas Health at Bayonne finally launches. The new 80,000 square foot facility will feature a satellite emergency department, primary and special care services, and a parking garage with 300 spaces. It will operate 24/7.
Keeping with the expansion theme, JCMC will begin the first phase of a campus expansion project. The project will feature new medical surgical beds, private obstetrics rooms, and new treatment bays.
In December, JCMC launched its Telestroke Program, which attracts not only Hudson County patients, but patients throughout the tri-state.
Jersey City launched the program along with the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and the nation’s leading neurology physicians.
It will allow for around the clock face-to-face consultations with neurology physicians through new video capabilities. Those capabilities include a highly interactive webcam, allowing neurologists to examine patients who show signs of a stroke remotely, and then provide immediate recommendations for care. Dr. Douglas Ratner, who is JCMC’s Chair of Medicine, said the Telestroke program is the hospital’s first Telemedicine program.
Today, JCMC is the only hospital in Hudson to offer a cardiac surgery program, performing 250+ open heart surgeries annually. Building on that, the hospital also added an electrophysiology service line to help with comprehensive diagnosis and treatments of certain heart rhythm disorders, including sick sinus syndrome, atrial flutter and fibrillation, ventricular and supraventricular tachycardias, and different heart blocks.
Because of this addition, JCMC now offers advanced EP study and Catheter Ablation therapy, which treats irregular heartbeats using radiofrequency energy through catheter-based technology. As a member of RWJBarnabas Heart, Jersey City now also offers an on-site Transcather Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) screening clinic, allowing patients to receive radiological, laboratory and functional testing to evaluate their suitability for TAVR.
The Orthopedic Institute at JCMC also saw development over the past year. Patients receive dedicated Joint Care Coordinators who work with them from pre-admission testing through discharge following surgery. Patients, along with family and friends, learn about their surgery, hospital stay and rehabilitation. Each patient can access a personalized computer-based interactive education program which helps simplify complex medical information. Patients can prepare for surgery by accessing the web-based program and answering a list of frequently asked questions.
“Jersey City Medical Center has a longstanding history of providing extraordinary care to the residents of Hudson County and beyond. It is a pleasure to share several accomplishments and highlights from our expansion plans,” said Joseph Scott, JCMC’s chief executive officer.
The hospital won numerous awards and certifications in the past year.
One of the more recent was its fourth consecutive Leader in LBGTQ Healthcare Equality recognition from the Healthcare Equality Index, “for outstanding practices related to the equity and inclusion of LBGTQ patients, visitors, and employees,” Scott explained.
Currently, the hospital is focusing its sights on winning the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, an award Congress created 30 years ago, “to raise awareness of quality management and recognize U.S. companies that have implemented successful quality management systems.” The awards are given annually in six categories, healthcare being one of them. They are also pursing their third Magnet Certification for Nursing Excellence.
For the 11th consecutive time, the hospital received an “A” safety rating in spring 2017 by The Leapfrog Group.
CarePoint expands and achieves
CarePoint runs three hospitals – Christ Hospital in Jersey City, Hoboken University Medical Center, and Bayonne Medical Center. This spring, Inside Jersey magazine named all three among the top 10 in the entire state. Among hospitals with under 350 beds, Bayonne Medical Center was named No. 2 in the state. In that same category, Hoboken University ranked sixth. Among hospitals with over 350 beds, Christ Hospital ranked No 8. In addition, the magazine named Bayonne Medical Center No. 1 in New Jersey for breast cancer, prostate cancer, and congestive heart failure treatment.
“We are extremely proud that all CarePoint Health hospitals have been awarded such prestigious honors.” --Jeff Mandler
The Commission on Cancer, a program from the American College of Surgeons, also granted a three-year Accreditation with Commendation to Christ Hospital’s cancer program. Christ now joins Bayonne Medical Center as the only other Accredited Cancer Center in Hudson County.
Last year, Hoboken University completed an extensive renovation to their obstetrics ward. The renovations, which cost nearly $1 million, features new beds for mothers, retractable couches for fathers, and custom made baby bassinets. Rooms in the ward have also been repainted and outfitted with new shower tiles. Gift baskets, backpacks and plush toys have also been added, in efforts to make expecting mothers feel at home.
While some local women have their prenatal care in New York, they deliver in Hoboken because of the risk of getting stuck in traffic under the Hudson River and having to deliver in a vehicle.
Hoboken also delivered innovations in gynecological care last year. The hospital was accredited as a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology and Robotic Surgery (COEMIG). Hoboken is the only hospital in Hudson County with both accreditations. The COEMIG program brings new robotic capabilities to minimally invasive procedures for gynecologic surgery patients.
“Earning the center of excellence designation signifies our ability to consistently deliver the safest, highest-quality care to minimally invasive gynecologic surgery patients,” said Dr. Nizar Kifaieh, Chief Medical Officer at CarePoint Health. “The COEMIG program fosters quality improvement in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery, and participation has focused our team on exceeding clinical benchmarks and guidelines. But most importantly, our commitment to excellence improves the health and well-being of our patients.”
Because Hoboken itself is widely considered a bar-friendly town (it has around 80 drinking establishments within its one square mile), Hoboken University CEO Meika Roberson launched a sexual assault community training program in the town. It will train bartenders to recognize signs of potential sex assault, and the program will be expanded this year.
Titled, “Raising The Bar: Hoboken Bar-Bystander Training,” the program had its first meeting in December. That meeting included representatives from the Hudson County Prosecutors Office, Hoboken Police Department, and owners and staff from local bars and restaurants. According to Roberson, half of all sexual assaults in America include alcohol. She will continue the training through private education sessions. Those interested should call Anna at (201) 418-1004.
After the fatal train crash at Hoboken Terminal in September, University treated 23 patients. The hospital is currently looking at ways to improve responses to such incidents.
This year, a new Fast Track unit opened up at the Bayonne Emergency Department. The unit is for people who show up at emergency rooms while not being seriously incapacitated, but they do not have a primary care physician.
“We can move them through the emergency room without having to wait in the general core of folks,” said Jarrod Bernstein, senior vice president of marketing and communications at CarePoint.
Satellite emergency departments
CarePoint also plans to open nine satellite emergency departments throughout Northern New Jersey in the coming year. They hope to place the departments in Jersey City, Union City, North Bergen, and locations in other counties.
The departments will increase public access to ER’s and reduce costs. They will also access underserved neighborhoods. One, for instance, is planned in Jersey City’s Greenville, which has few immediate medical options for residents. Another one, set to open in Downtown Jersey City, is located around 1.3 miles from competitor Jersey City Medical Center.
Additionally, this year the system will build at least one to two neighborhood health centers, facilities where people can receive primary and specialty care, regardless of their ability to pay. Currently, the system has three such centers.
In recent years, urgent care centers have sprouted around the county, with plans for future ones. In 2014, Hackensack University Health Network said they planned to open as many as 10 urgent care centers in Northern New Jersey, part of a partnership with CityMD, which operates over 60 urgent care centers in the New York metropolitan area. Carepoint has also opened urgent care centers in Hoboken. Another company, Astrahealth Center has six locations in New Jersey, and PromptMD has two locations in Hoboken and one in Edgewater, owned by independent physicians.
Meadowlands for sale?
Secaucus’ much beleaguered Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center did not respond to multiple calls for comment. Media reports earlier this month said that the facility was slated to be sold to multimillionaire real estate developer Yan Moshe. Moshe, based in Long Island, owns a series of surgery centers in Bergen County, but reportedly has no prior experience running a hospital. His office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Some have questioned whether the facility should remain open. NorthJersey.com reported that it averages only a few dozen patients each day. Moshe reportedly also hopes to benefit from the planned opening of the much-discussed American Dream mall in the Meadowlands. MHA, LLC, a private investment company that purchased MHMC in 2010, has agreed to pay the mall developers $6.6 million over 10 years for the rights to create two first aid stations and a wellness center in the mall, NorthJersey.com reported.
Hannington Dia can be reached at email@example.com