Hackensack Meridian Health and medical tech company Neosoma Inc. are teaming up on artificial intelligence-powered brain cancer treatment and research, the health care provider announced Feb. 24.
The collaboration with the Massachusetts-based company will include clinical data sharing, research and strategic investment from Hackensack Meridian to support Neosoma’s method of imaging, tracking and collecting data on numerous types of brain tumors, including glioblastomas.
According to Hackensack Meridian, although the MRI is the best tool to evaluate tumors, “even the most experienced physicians encounter considerable challenges in determining the extent and characteristics of the cancer, which can have a direct impact on clinical care.”
Benefits of the advanced Neosoma technology include helping physicians to better plan procedures, assess post-procedural results, guide chemo and immunotherapy treatments, and more.
“We are committed to investing in research and innovative therapies to live our mission to transform health care and give our patients the best possible outcomes,” said Hackensack Meridian CEO Robert Garrett said in a statement. “Partnering with Neosoma Inc. is a great way to continue to develop potential game changing therapies to treat these challenging cancers.”
The collaboration with Neosoma was formed from the Bear’s Den, an initiative launched in 2017 and made up of a panel of Hackensack Meridian experts that aims to support “promising companies” and accelerate innovation, according to the health care provider.
Dr. Joseph Landolfi, a neuro-oncologist and the chief medical officer at JFK University Medical Center, added, “Neosoma helps to avoid interruptions in care, unnecessary surgeries, and unnecessary changes in therapy. The entire team benefits from centralized information, more efficient communication, and treatment protocols tailored to each specific patient.”
As it gets set to celebrates its two-year anniversary in March, Hackensack Meridian Health announced that Project HEAL – a hospital-based violence intervention program located at Jersey Shore University Medical Center – recently received more than $3 million in new federal and state grants.
The latest grants bring the program’s total state and federal funding to roughly $8 million.
Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, and Dr. Aakash Shah, medical director of Project HEAL and chief of addiction medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, recently spoke to NJBIZ about Project HEAL, its accomplishments to date, and what’s next.
Garrett opened the discussion by explaining how and why the program came together.
“It goes back to Hackensack Meridian’s commitment to transforming behavioral health,” Garrett told NJBIZ. “I think we’ve become a leader in providing behavioral health services. We teamed up and partnered with the Carrier Clinic several years ago, the largest provider of behavioral health care services in New Jersey. And we soon recognized that violence is a public health crisis and is a significant behavioral health issue. And we understood, I think, early on that health systems really needed to be part of the solution.”
Garrett pointed to stats showing that last year some 48,000 people were killed due to gun violence, equating to nearly 120 Americans per day.
“Really it’s an epidemic of unprecedented proportions,” said Garrett. “As a result of that, and because we felt it was such a big part of our mission to transform behavioral health, we did start Project HEAL a couple of years ago. Thanks to the funding from the state and federal government, they gave us an opportunity to start such a program at Jersey Shore Medical University Medical Center in Neptune.”
Garrett said this new funding will help not only sustain the current program, but hopefully enable HMH to expand it.
“Our job is to try to prevent this type of violence through early intervention in behavioral health, but also to help the victims who are unfortunately saddled with many behavioral health issues as a result of being a victim of violence,” Garrett explained. “So, we’re looking at it from both sides, from the prevention side and the from the treatment side.”
The new funds will also offer the Project HEAL team the chance to enhance its existing infrastructure by enabling them to access Monmouth County’s at-risk youth, ages 13 to 20, to provide them with the holistic support needed to break the cycle of violence.
“These investments send two very clear messages. First, our health care network and state and federal leaders understand that violence is a serious public health issue,” said Shah. “Secondly, if you have been a victim of violence, they see you, they hear you, and they are providing the resources needed to ensure that your tomorrow is better than today.”
‘A proven track record of success’
In just those two years since its inception, the program has already helped more than 400 clients in multiple ways. In total, more than 1,850 individual and group counseling sessions have been provided, along with hundreds of instances of emergency financial assistance, health screenings, informing of victims’ rights and referrals to available legal, medical and faith-based services.
Shah told NJBIZ that the services offered to clients through Project HEAL run the gamut and are tailored on a case-by-case basis.
“If what someone needs is educational opportunities, we can connect them to it. If what they need is job training and placement, we can do that for them. If what they need is emergency shelter, clothing, or food, we can do that for them,” Shah explained.
Garrett and Shah pointed out that the success of the program has hinged on gaining the trust of the community while thinking outside the box—stressing that this is an example of how HMH is adapting to “Health Care 2.0.”
Shah recounted a story involving an early intervention to protect an individual from potential gang violence, and how this type of work often puts doctors into situations that go beyond what they may have learned at medical school or through their traditional training.
“I am an emergency room doctor by training. I don’t control who comes through the door. I only control how I respond,” said Shah. “You get a call like that and there’s a decision you have to make, right? Am I going to throw up my hands and say they didn’t teach me this in medical school, this isn’t health care, this isn’t what the system usually does, and walk away? Or are we going to do something about it, save a life, and change the way we operate?”
Shah said that beyond all of the stats and numbers, that community trust is paramount.
“That kind of trust is what we are building in the communities we serve,” said Shah. “And, so, I think that’s the biggest and most important change.”
Garrett hopes to first expand the program throughout the Hackensack Meridian Health system, and then see it continue to grow across the state and beyond.
“Violence is not limited to a specific community or a specific town or county, for that matter. Unfortunately, it’s everywhere,” said Garrett. “This program has had a proven track record of success. I think that’s why the additional funding has come. And we’d like to see this really expand as a best practice elsewhere.”
Health Care 2.0
And Garrett also elaborated on how a program such as this fits into this notion of “Health Care 2.0,” as health care systems tackle more complex challenges.
“If we’re really going to transform health care, really going to address the problems that are out there today that are leading to significant health care challenges, we have to address these issues,” said Garrett. “We have to think out-of-the-box and start programs like Project HEAL.”
He also pointed to work that Hackensack is doing to help identify victims of human trafficking. That effort has included training their team and partnering with outside organizations. In September, Garrett participated in a United Nations panel to discuss developing uniform global standards to help health care providers identify and aid victims of human trafficking.
“Those are just a couple of examples of where that wasn’t really ‘Health Care 1.0,’” Garrett explained. “That’s ‘Health Care 2.0’ where we’re involved in these issues that do absolutely become a health care issue that we had not, in previous years, dealt with. But we’re proud we’re taking a lead in that respect as well.”
Garrett closed the conversation by discussing important lessons learned during the pandemic about how important it is to break down silos, engage stakeholders, and commit to collaborations and partnerships to tackle these types of challenges and issues.
“I do believe you have to have partner with other health care organizations,” said Garrett. “I think the pandemic taught us that through collaboration, through partnership, we can have even more effective outcomes,” said Garrett. “And I think that momentum from COVID needs to continue. And I’m really happy to hear that many health care systems are now recognizing violence and gun violence, specifically, as a public health crisis. That’s a good example of where partnership and cooperation hopefully will lead to some better outcomes.”
In January 2019, Hackensack Meridian Health finalized a merger with Carrier Clinic that included a multimillion-dollar investment in its facilities. Now, the health care provider is expanding the brand to Raritan Bay Medical Center, becoming Carrier Behavioral Health.
“The new Carrier Behavioral Health partnership with Raritan Bay Medical Center will advance our network’s commitment to delivering accessible, compassionate quality care for our patients,” Hackensack Meridian CEO Robert Garrett said in a statement. “Carrier Clinic has ranked among the top psychiatric and rehab recovery centers in New Jersey and its integration with Raritan Bay will strengthen the delivery of award-winning behavioral health care services close to home.”
As part of Hackensack Meridian’s $35 million investment, the new Carrier Behavioral Health at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy will expand from 24 beds to 81. The center will be fully open to patients this summer, according to the health care provider.
“We are excited to join forces with Carrier Clinic,” said Patricia Carroll, president and chief hospital executive at Raritan Bay Medical Center. “Carrier Clinic is a leader in Behavioral Health, and with our expansion currently underway, we are certain this will be an excellent partnership.”
Founded in 1910 in Somerset County, Carrier Clinic offers comprehensive behavioral and addiction treatment services to youths to older adults, according to its webpage. It includes a psychiatric hospital; the Blake Recovery Center, a 40-bed inpatient and outpatient detox and recovery facility; and an accredited school for seventh through 12th-grade students.
Don Parker, president of behavioral health care transformation service at Hackensack Meridian, added that the combination will be “an incredible partnership for the needs of our patients.”
The gap in health care availability and outcomes between minorities and other patients was a concern before the COVID-19 pandemic. But the disproportionate toll the virus exacted from vulnerable communities cast a harsh spotlight on the problem. The system had to respond, especially in New Jersey where the outbreak was particularly frightening for so many people. To hear Bob Garrett tell it, the system is doing just that.
In a wide-ranging interview with NJBIZ, the CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health described the efforts he and his colleagues have made and indicated that the results have been real and dramatic. Garrett had recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where much of the discussion on health care focused on the issues of mental health, equity and climate change. “Health care topics have become more mainstream at the World Economic Forum,” said Garrett, who has attended four such gatherings. “At the very beginning, it wasn’t as prevalent.”
But this year, attendees were given tasks to work on related to equity issues. “We meet, by Zoom, all during the year, the health care community does from the World Economic Forum. … We did sign a Zero Health Gaps Pledge. That requires that we continue to focus on health equity as a top priority and that we do whatever we can within our power to close the disparities that exist today, whether it’s life expectancy or other health care outcomes.”
Garrett also wrote an article for the WEF describing how technology can help in meeting those goals. “New technologies make it possible to recognize and address social needs as part of routine health care,” he wrote. “These digital platforms can identify people who would have previously fallen through the cracks. Food and housing insecurity, transportation issues, mental health concerns, addiction and caregiver stress can be more easily recognized and referred to community organizations aimed at addressing these issues. The goal is to eliminate disparities in health care outcomes based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors. And, by focusing more on prevention, we can further enhance health equity and build stronger communities.” The piece is available on the WEF web site at weforum.org.
Hackensack Meridian Health’s efforts include operating a digital platform called Unite Us that can provide the kind of screening Garrett described in the article for every individual who comes into contact with the system. Nearly 600,000 people have been screened since the platform’s inception 18 months ago, Garrett said, and HMH has made about 1.7 million referrals to a variety of agencies, municipalities or other health care organizations. “That focus alone really helps to close the gaps in health care outcomes,” he told NJBIZ.
The system also focuses on maternal and child health, and that work recently earned a Gold Seal of Approval for Advanced Certification in Perinatal Care by demonstrating exceptional standards and outcomes in the care of infants and mothers. “We have some great data showing that our work is actually succeeding and we were happy that the Joint Commission recognized that work,” Garrett said.
He cited c-sections, which have fallen by 40% at HMH facilities. Last year, HMH recorded zero maternal deaths across the network. And Garrett added that some forthcoming data will show that the system experiences one of the lowest rates of complications in the country. “This data is actually showing that we completely closed the gaps in outcomes between races, meaning people of color and the white population.” The report will be available within the next several weeks. “Once that’s out, that’s going to be groundbreaking research that shows our efforts focusing on health equity, on closing these gaps, are really starting to pay dividends.
In addition, the initial, significant gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates between people of color and the white population completely closed in the later stages of the pandemic. “We made a lot of efforts to work with community leaders, with civic and religious leaders in some of the underserved communities that we serve and it made a difference.”
On the education and research front, Garrett pointed out that BioNJ recently honored Dr. David Perlin, chief scientific officer and executive vice president of the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation, with the organization’s 2023 Dr. Sol J. Barer Award for Vision, Innovation and Leadership. And he said the Hackensack Meridian Medical School of Medicine is expected to receive its final accreditation in the near future. “We expect by the end of this month, to hopefully hear the great news that this medical school … will be fully accredited.”
Among other priorities for the remainder of 2023, Garrett cited behavioral health and access to care. “The statistics haven’t changed,” he noted. “One in four Americans don’t have a primary care doctor. So, we need to be out there and we need to be putting our physicians’ offices in locations where there are access issues. We’re also adding a significant number of ambulatory care sites.” He said new ambulatory care sites are coming to Clifton and Clark and sites providing a variety of services, including outpatient cancer care, will be opened in Paramus Totowa.
“As more and more care continues to gravitate outside the hospital, you’ll see more of these ambulatory care settings. And we’re also expanding our services in the home.” The system established its Hospital at Home program in 2022 at JFK University Medical Center; it has since grown to include Jersey Shore Medical Center and Hackensack University Medical Center. In addition, HMH teamed up with a national hospital at home company to eventually launch a statewide program. With the development of new technologies, “we can really provide so much more in the home than we were able to do even a couple of years ago.”
Hackensack Meridian is also dealing with many of the same issues other companies are facing in the wake of the pandemic. Perhaps chief among those challenges is hiring and retaining talented staff members, especially nurses.
“It’s been a rough three years for health care in general throughout the country and in New Jersey … we’re still seeing a significant shortage of RNs, for example,” Garrett said, noting studies showing that 1 out of 5 health care workers have left the field since the pandemic began, a number he called “staggering.”
“But even more troublesome … I saw a national statistic that 1 out of 3 registered nurses, because of burnout, are seriously thinking about leaving the profession in the next 12 to 18 months.” As a result, Garrett said HMH has attempted to reduce stress and burnout among its workforce. He noted the system’s virtual nursing program, launched at Ocean University Medical Center in Brick. The initiative allows nurses, through video technology, to help bedside nurses with tasks that keep them away from the patient, such as charting admissions and discharges, medication reconciliation and other functions that can be performed remotely.
“The surveys we’ve seen [show that] the number one cause of burnout, particularly with nurses, is that they are not able to spend time at the bedside and have that direct patient contact liked they hoped when they went to nursing school and why they went into the profession. And the same phenomenon exists with physicians and we have a chief wellness officer … who has put it many programs to help with physician burnout.” The goal is to free physicians up so they can spend more time with patients.
Health care providers in general are also facing significant financial challenges stemming from the pandemic, which sent wave after wave of patients into hospitals but curtailed most of the revenue-producing procedures the facilities rely upon for financial health. Garrett noted that the Biden administration has indicated it will end the COVID-19 public health emergency in May. That may be good news for many pandemic-weary Americans, but the move will also mean an end to some funding sources that hospitals were depending upon. “So the staffing shortages … and some of the burnout issues that require hospitals and health care systems to hire agency-employed nurses and others at higher costs will just become a more acute situation.”
All of which underscores the importance of a fundraising effort Hackensack Meridian Health launched last year, led by former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Jersey Mike’s Subs founder Peter Cancro. And Garrett said the work is going well. “Their contacts, their connections are great and I have to say each of them is working really, really hard. … They believe in our mission, they believe in our programs.”
Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute in Edison is one of 20 rehabilitation hospitals nationwide researching a new medical device for stroke patients.
As part of the EMAGINE Stroke Recovery Trial funded by BrainQ, an Israel-based technology company that developed the device, JFK Johnson is enrolling patients four to 21 days following a stroke.
The wearable technology, which delivers electromagnetic therapy to the brain to accelerate healing, “aims to enhance recovery and reduce disability after neurologic damage caused by stroke,” JFK Johnson said in a Jan. 25 announcement.
The device can be used in a hospital setting, outpatient clinic or at home and would enhance JFK Johnson’s existing rehabilitation therapies. The institute treats approximately 750 stroke patients a year.
Dr. Sara Cuccurullo, chair, vice president and medical director of JFK Johnson and principal investigator of the study, said in a statement, “We’re participating in this innovative research and other clinical trials because we’re continually working to maximize the recovery of our patients and advance the science of stroke recovery.”
According to BrainQ, “The therapy is based on biological insights retrieved from brainwaves, using proprietary machine learning algorithms that translate into a frequency-tuned low intensity electromagnetic field.”
In 2020, stroke was the fifth leading cause of death in New Jersey and the U.S., according to the most recent statistics from the New Jersey Department of Health.
The company said that current treatments are affective only in the first few hours following stroke. Only about 5% of victims in the U.S. arrive at the hospital in time to benefit from these treatments.
BrainQ’s technology aims to extend this window by offering a treatment that can be used in the days and weeks following stroke.
The program entails more than 45 hour-long sessions, five times a week, with weekly follow-ups from a JFK Johnson rehabilitation specialist.
Nationwide, 150 randomized subjects will be enrolled in the trial.
“Stroke can be devastating. Improving outcomes for people recovering from stroke will have enormous impact for individuals and their families as well as far-reaching impact for our nation,” said Hayk Petrosyan, senior research scientist at JFK Johnson.
Yotam Drechsler, CEO of BrainQ, said the company was excited to work with the team at JFK Johnson on the study.
“JFK Johnson’s dedication to excellence in stroke care and research is unparalleled and we look forward to working together to fundamentally change the outcomes for stroke survivors,” Drechsler said.
“My husband dedicated his life to advancing research to improve the quality of life for people facing diseases and disorders,” Harris said in a statement. “Making this gift and expanding his legacy through the naming of this new center is simply the carrying on of his life’s work. The community needs access to the best care possible and I am honored and humbled to be able to play a part in ensuring that it can be provided to those in need. I hope that this new center helps a lot of people.”
The treatment center will offer advanced diagnostic testing and treatments for conditions such as ALS, Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, neuro-oncology, epilepsy and seizure disorders, headaches and migraines and stroke prevention.
Fast facts about the Jersey Shore University Medical Center
Its ALS Center is one of only two ALS Association Certified Treatment Centers of Excellence in the state.
Its MS Center is one of only two designated as a Center for Comprehensive MS Care by the National MS Society.
It’s the only Joint Commission-certified and New Jersey Department of Health licensed Comprehensive Stroke Center in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
The demand for neurology services in New Jersey is expected to grow by more than 12% in the next 10 years, according to Dr. Alan Colicchio, chair of neurology, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, and medical director, Neuroscience Care Transformation Service, Hackensack Meridian Health, Southern Market.
Additionally, “visits to neurologists, per 1,000 population in the Monmouth/ Ocean region, outpace state averages according to health care utilization forecasts,” he added.
“With this in mind, over the past two years we have recruited 19 leading neuroscience experts from across the state and country to expand our comprehensive and nationally recognized neurology care services,” Colicchio said.
Vito Buccellato, president and chief hospital executive, Jersey Shore University Medical Center, added, “The new center was specifically designed to unite services to be more convenient and exceedingly accessible for our patients and their loved ones, in one centralized location.”
Hackensack Meridian JFK University Medical Center in Edison unveiled Dec. 14 its latest technology for lung care.
The new robotic Ion Bronchoscopy system – which the medical center said is the first of its kind in central New Jersey – allows physicians to better visualize and maneuver within the lungs to obtain lung tissue samples.
“The Ion is truly a revolution in how we’re now able to diagnose patients with lung cancer at their earliest possible stage,” Dr. Faiz Bhora, chair of surgery and chief of thoracic surgery, central region, Hackensack Meridian Health, said in a video explaining the technology.
“We’re now able to biopsy very small lesions in the lungs that, prior, we had no good way to get to at all,” Bhora continued, adding that it’s the most minimally invasive method of performing this type of biopsy.
While the physician controls the robotic system, a 3D map of the patient’s lung appears on a computer screen, allowing the doctor to see exactly where the bronchoscope is in the person’s lung, resulting in a biopsy of very small nodules.
According to the medical center, this process “guides the physician to get to the nodule, much like GPS in a car.”
Bhora said most patients can be back to work in a week to 10 days after the procedure.
“The Ion bronchoscopy system allows for greater precision, more reach, more stability and earlier diagnosis to help our team of thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists and oncologists make the best diagnostic and treatment plans,” Amie Thornton, president, chief hospital executive, said in a statement.
Bhora added, “This platform’s unprecedented stability enables the precision needed for biopsy compared to manual techniques and the ability to diagnose lung cancer at the earliest stage when it is most treatable.”
Hackensack Meridian Health is putting the finishing touches on a massive $714 million expansion at Hackensack University Medical Center, an undertaking that is considered one of the largest and most comprehensive health care construction projects in the U.S. And during a Nov. 1 media event, hospital officials conducted a behind-the-scenes tour of the Helena Theurer Pavilion, a brand new, nine-story, 530,000-square-foot surgical and intensive care tower in Hackensack.
Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and amenities, Hackensack Meridian executives are confident the pavilion will raise the bar on patient-centered health care in the region and beyond once it begins accepting patients in late December.
One unique aspect of the new facility is that it accounts for the challenges faced by the health care industry as providers battled against multiple waves of COVID outbreaks over the past two-and-a-half years, officials said.
After breaking ground in September 2019, construction of the Helena Theurer Pavilion proceeded smoothly, safely and on schedule. However, those lessons learned by the hospital during the early days of the pandemic prompted Hackensack Meridian to update the design, in real time, to incorporate “pandemic readiness.”
Mark Sparta, HUMC’s chief health executive and president of the Northern Region of Hackensack Meridian Health, described the changes as “small tweaks, but important ones.”
The most noteworthy modification added the option to convert the entire tower to a negative-pressure facility for infection control, with just the flip of a switch.
The pandemic’s impact can also be seen in smaller features, such as a set of sinks for handwashing that visitors in the intensive care unit can use before visiting loved ones, and the ability for staff to manage IVs and stock supplies from outside patient rooms.
“This building rose like a phoenix out of those darkest days of the pandemic. We remained on budget and on time. It’s really a credit to the teams that worked on this,” said Sparta.
“This is the future of health care,” he stated. “This facility will really position Hackensack University Medical Center to care for the next three or four generations of New Jersey residents with the most complex care.”
Seeing the growing need for critical care services, Hackensack Meridian began planning the expansion a decade ago with the goal of building one of the nation’s leading acute care facilities, according to Robert Garrett, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health.
“We knew 10 years ago the population is aging significantly, especially with all the Baby Boomers in New Jersey, particularly in northern New Jersey,” Garrett said. And, within the next 30 years, the population of seniors 65 years and up is expected to double, placing an even bigger demand on the need for care, he added.
Situated on the Bergen County campus of one of the hospital system’s two flagship academic medical centers, the Helena Theurer Pavilion was designed to promote innovation, efficiency and safety, officials said.
“We knew we wanted to provide our world-class team members with a world-class facility so they can deliver world-class care for members of our community,” Sparta said.
“Hackensack University Medical Center has been providing care to the community for over 135 years. And nothing makes me more proud than to be able to say that 135 years after those community-minded individuals got together to build the first hospital in Bergen County, that on that very site on Second Street we have now constructed the future of health care,” he continued.
It includes 24 operating rooms, 72 post-anesthesia care unit beds, 50 intensive care unit beds and 175 medical/surgical beds in private rooms.
The pavilion also has five da Vinci multiport robots, four orthopedic robots for joint replacement procedures, one da Vinci single-port robot and one CT scanner in the ICU. Additionally, HUMC will now be the first hospital in the state to have an interoperative MRI system
Other features of the pavilion, which Hackensack Meridian is touting as the state’s first “smart surgical tower,” include:
A monitor tablet outside each room that provides select patient information, such as fall risk or contact precautions
In-room workstations for team members and in-room patient lift systems to assist with transport
Dedicated CT imaging on the ICU floor
Live-streaming capability in all operating rooms, promoting education and communication between colleagues
Large monitors in each OR to make it easier for surgeons to see patient images
A pathology lab located near ORs for improved collaboration and time-sensitive care
The tower’s integrated system will enable real-time data sharing and connectivity between the hospital and other players – like surgeons and their patients – on screen monitors in each patient’s room that can display visuals and 3D virtual models to help explain diagnosis and care plans.
The pavilion also offers several patient- and family-friendly amenities.
Each single-patient room has been designed “to provide a superior healing environment,” from their full bathrooms to the paint color, the floor and the natural light to the views of the New York City skyline.
Rooms also have the latest technology, including an in-room tablet at the bedside that allows patients to control the lights, shades, TV, room temperature, order food and video chat with their loved ones who they can see on the 69-inch flat screen.
Dr. D. Howard Ross, chair of surgery and surgeon-in-chief at HUMC, said, “This tower is not only region leading and state leading, but it’s also nation leading. It’s full of technology, but also design. It brings in air and light so patients will recover more soundly. It will be a place where staff wants to come to work – it’s that physically beautiful.”
As for the existing operation rooms and ICU units in the hospital’s current 771-bed facility on Prospect Avenue, Sparta said those rooms will be repurposed for other uses, such as same-day procedures, like colonoscopies and endoscopies.
With 4,200 admissions annually, HUMC is considered the largest provider of inpatient and outpatient services in New Jersey. And now, with the addition of the Helena Theurer Pavilion, officials believe it could draw even more patients to seek care at the hospital.
Garrett said he believes the tower is the “newest, most technologically advanced” facility not only in New Jersey, but in the nation.
“It’s truly a smart hospital in every sense of the word,” said Garrett, who added, “My expectation would be that patients from New Jersey who are going into New York now may consider coming here for their surgery … I would think it’s a very attractive facility for the area.”
The pavilion is named in honor of Helena Theurer, a longtime benefactor who donated $35 million between 2010 and 2020 to HUMC’s John Theurer Cancer Center, which was named in tribute to her late husband.
Statewide, the not-for-profit Hackensack Meridian Health has 18 hospitals and more than 500 patient care locations, which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, air medical transportation, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers, physician practice locations and a fitness and wellness centers.
Its workforce includes more than 35,000 team members and 7,000 physicians, making it one of New Jersey’s top employers.
Hackensack Meridian Health put its new brand campaign motto, “We’re Ready,” into action recently with a full-scale emergency response exercise.
The training was designed to prepare teams from Hackensack Meridian Old Bridge Medical Center and the New Jersey EMS Task Force in the event of a catastrophic hurricane.
The drill used the statewide capabilities available to Hackensack Meridian Health if there were an infrastructure failure at one of its facilities, the system explained, including a 50-bed field hospital, medical ambulance buses and oxygen generation trucks.
“We are grateful for the collaboration, expertise, and dedication of the New Jersey EMS Task Force in conducting this joint exercise at our hospital,” Patricia Carroll, chief hospital executive for Old Bridge Medical Center and Raritan Bay Medical Center, said in a statement.
“As we near the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and deal with the aftermath of more recent Hurricanes Ida and Ian, it’s never been more important to conduct these exercises and drills,” Carroll continued.
Mike Bascom, state leader and nonprofit chairman of the NJ EMS Task Force, stressed the importance of these types of exercises.
“As recently seen in Florida after Hurricane Ida, meeting medical needs during a disaster, without power, with limited access to supplies and food, and when local resources are taxed, is a critical element to rapid recovery for the community,” Bascom said.
Bascom continued, “The NJ EMS Task Force was developed to provide the State with the capability to support medical surge for hospitals and to assure that EMS has the resources necessary to respond to large scale incidents, large, planned events, and disasters.”
The NJ EMS Task Force is a nonprofit organization that represents more than 250 career and volunteer EMS providers throughout the state. The organization was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a way to better prepare New Jersey’s responses to large-scale events. The task force’s recent accomplishments include creating and executing a plan to transfer COVID-19 vaccines throughout the state.
Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH), the largest health network in the state, opened its first long-term acute care hospital (LTACH).
Located at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy, the state-of-the-art facility features 30 private rooms and offers a variety of programs to accommodate patients that need a longer stay in an acute care setting.
In an Oct. 5 press release announcing the grand opening, HMH Chief Executive Officer Robert Garrett said, “We are excited to open our 18th hospital in the Hackensack Meridian Health Network. This new LTACH will provide numerous benefits to our patients, their families and our community, which will lead to optimizing patient outcomes.”
State-of-the-art pulmonary program with ventilator weaning
An advanced cardiac program that includes congestive heart failure management and education
Sepsis treatment that includes long-term antibiotic therapy
Extensive wound care program with treatment of non-healing surgical wounds and pressure ulcers
The new facility also has a specialized dedicated floor, daily physician visits, round-the-clock emergency physician coverage and an interdisciplinary care team that includes specialists, registered nurses, technicians, respiratory therapists, dieticians and rehabilitation therapists, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech.
“We look forward to providing exceptional care to each patient who comes to our hospital,” said Michael Burns, president and chief hospital executive of Hackensack Meridian LTACH.
Todd Way, president, Central Region, HMH, noted that LTACH is part of a $35 million investment by the hospital network into Raritan Bay Medical Center “that will help meet the future needs of our community.”
Statewide, the not-for-profit health care organization has 18 hospitals and more than 500 patient care locations, which include ambulatory care centers, surgery centers, home health services, long-term care and assisted living communities, ambulance services, air medical transportation, rehabilitation centers, urgent care centers, physician practice locations and a fitness and wellness centers.
Its workforce includes more than 35,000 team members and 7,000 physicians, making it one of New Jersey’s top employers.
Residents of northern New Jersey can take advantage of a new cancer care option after Hackensack Meridian Health and St. Joseph’s Health cut the ribbon Sept. 27 on an infusion center in Passaic County.
Located on the St. Joseph’s Wayne Medical Center campus, the new facility brings the expertise of HMH’s John Theurer Cancer Center to a wider population of patients.
“The opening of this new infusion center is the first step of the oncology partnership between our two health networks,” said St. Joseph’s President and CEO Kevin Slavin. “As our partnership continues to evolve, that means the best cancer care is more accessible for residents in the surrounding communities.”
The move is an extension of the affiliation the two health care providers forged two years ago. The arrangement was designed to improve access to clinical trials and specialists in St. Joseph’s region.
“We are thrilled to open our new infusion center, which provides our patients treatment not only for cancer, but also a wide variety of other conditions that require infusion therapy or injections,” said Jane White, vice president of oncology at St. Joseph’s. “Our infusion nurses, who are certified in oncology nursing and chemotherapy administration, work collaboratively with physicians to ensure patients receive high quality, safe care. Through our partnership with Hackensack Meridian Health, we will continue exploring additional ways to enhance our Oncology Services.”
The partners said they plan to expand into St. Joseph’s Paterson campus and a new location in Totowa. The latter site, at 225 Minnisink Road, will open later this year.
Earlier this year, federal antitrust regulators blocked a merger between HMH and Englewood Health. In an interview with NJBIZ, Hackensack Meridian CEO Robert Garrett cited the partnership with St. Joseph’s as the type of deal large systems could still forge in a difficult regulatory environment.
“I look at the model that we created up at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in northern New Jersey, which has been very, very successful. We focused on doing home care together. We focused on doing rehabilitation together. And now we just recently, as you know, signed a partnership with St. Joe’s to provide cancer care to residents of northern New Jersey together,” Garrett said at the time. “We’re still independent, we have independent boards. We didn’t merge, but we’re working very collaboratively, very closely together. So there are other structures out there, but now I’d hate to see mergers and acquisitions just not be available, because sometimes it may be the only way that a hospital that otherwise might not survive financially can survive — if they did have the benefit of a larger health system where that system could provide capital for new programs, new services. There may be no other way. So it may not be the only tool in the in the toolkit, but it still I think will be an important one.”
Hackensack Meridian Health promoted Kenneth Esser to senior vice president, Care Transformation Services, Behavioral Health, and special advisor to the CEO, the system announced Sept. 19.
Esser joined Hackensack Meridian in October 2018 as vice president, chief of staff, Corporate Services and Governance, Government Relations, and was promoted to senior vice president in that department in January 2020.
According to the promotion announcement, Esser played a key role in the health care provider’s COVID-19 response, “connecting the network to all state and federal officials, securing essential supplies, leading the network’s vaccine rollout and policy development, and providing daily briefings.”
“I am grateful for his continued leadership across the Hackensack Meridian Health network and look forward to his growing impact in New Jersey and the broader health care industry,” Garrett said.
In his new role, Esser will be responsible for overseeing strategic operations of the CTS; developing department performance strategies; improving patient experience and health outcomes; and reducing costs. He will also serve as special advisor to the CEO and will continue to lead the Office of Government Affairs.
Before joining Hackensack Meridian Health, Esser was manager of program growth and strategy for PSE&G; chief energy advisor to former Gov. Jon Corzine; policy advisor for energy and economic growth for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection; senior policy advisor for economic growth for the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission; and government relations specialist for the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Esser earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Rutgers University.
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