While still awaiting federal approval, a proposal from RWJBarnabas Health and Saint Peter’s Healthcare System to create a “premier academic medical center” is one step closer to reality after getting the go-ahead from the state.
The two signed a definitive agreement with the intent to merge in September 2020, less than a year after signing a non-binding letter of intent to a explore potential partnership.
“This is a tremendous milestone in a years-long journey toward fulfilling our shared vision to bring transformative care to New Jersey,” RWJBarnabas Health CEO Barry Ostrowsky said in a statement.
At the center of that effort is the academic medical center (AMC) the combination of the New Brunswick facility and the West Orange-based health care system would create.
Superior Court Judge Lisa Vignuolo authorized the transaction under New Jersey’s Community Healthcare Assets Protection Act in an April 26 ruling. “[T]he applicant has met the requirements necessary … [and the transaction between RWJBH and Saint Peter’s] will serve in the public interest and the public good resulting in the creation, the hopeful creation and anticipated creation, of the premier New Jersey academic medical center which would benefit the citizens of this state.”
Such CHAPA reviews are required under state law for transactions involving nonprofit, charitable hospitals to determine if they are in the public interest. Final approval for the AMC is now pending review by the Federal Trade Commission.
“As densely populated and historically rooted in biomedical research and innovation as New Jersey is, it is incredible to me that our state has never had a premier academic medical center that can unlock opportunities for medical discovery and make high-quality care more accessible and affordable for everyone,” Ostrowsky continued. “For too long, New Jerseyans have endured the cost and inconvenience of traveling out of state to receive highly specialized care, when they should be able to get it right here at home. New Jersey residents deserve nothing less, and we are now just one step away from being able to deliver on that promise.”
In a statement, Saint Peter’s Healthcare System President and CEO Leslie Hirsch said the approval from the state primes the partners to set up the entity.
“State approval now puts us on the cusp of being able to create New Jersey’s first multi-campus premier academic medical center that will draw top talent, increased research funding, and more opportunities for groundbreaking clinical trials, while also enhancing specialized services and improving overall patient care,” Hirsch said. “New Jersey deserves to have a premier academic medical center of national distinction like many other states that will serve as a destination for patients from all walks of life to get lifesaving treatment for complex illnesses and as an anchor for medical innovation, educational opportunity, and economic development.”
In an announcement of the milestone, the partners said establishing such an AMC would also help to fulfill New Jersey’s goal to transform academic health care in the state by:
- increasing services and patient access to primary and specialty care, especially for children and vulnerable populations
- addressing racial disparities in health outcomes
- offering a “destination AMC” level of clinical care for patients
A New Brunswick location, according to RWJBH and Saint Peters, will help to further promote Rutgers as a top tier medical research and training university—attracting talent, and research funding, to allow for greater innovation.