By Michelle Sartor
Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd announced Monday that she was approving an application from Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) to open a fully functioning hospital in Westwood on the site of the former Pascack Valley Hospital.
The new hospital, which will be named HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley, will have 128 beds and be the first for-profit facility of its kind in Bergen County. Many residents in the Pascack and Northern Valleys in Bergen County have been pushing for a hospital to reopen in Westwood, citing the lack of adequate care available.
“We are pleased by Commissioner O’Dowd’s decision to approve the opening of this new hospital, which will extend Hackensack University Medical Center’s world-class healthcare network to the Pascack and Northern Valley regions, and cut drive times in cases of emergency,” said HUMC President and CEO Robert C. Garrett. “[The] decision by the state validates the need for a full-service acute-care hospital in Westwood and reaffirms the community’s overwhelming support for this facility.”
Garrett has said opening the hospital will fulfill a need and create more jobs in the area. “The hospital will feature all private patient rooms, a state-of-the-art obstetrical unit, an intensive/critical care unit, five operating rooms, one special procedure room, and a cardiac catheterization laboratory,” read an HUMC statement.
Not everyone in the area is happy with the decision, however. Officials at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center have fought against HUMC’s application from the start and their positions remained unchanged.
“The Board of Trustees and the leadership of The Valley Hospital continue to believe that opening a new hospital during an era of healthcare reform, declining hospital reimbursement, reduced patient hospitalizations, insignificant population growth and a challenging economy is wrong for the healthcare system in Bergen County,” read a statement from Valley Hospital. “It is especially wrong for a region that is being well served by five full-service hospitals located within a 12-mile radius of Westwood with, on average, more than 300 empty and available hospital beds every night. The latest numbers show that there will be no increase in demand for healthcare, and a new hospital will only hurt existing hospitals by moving patients — and thus jobs — from one location to another.”
Maria Margiotta of Englewood Hospital and Medical Center said she expected O’Dowd’s decision, saying it was “driven by political consideration” and ignores the rules and requirements to open a hospital. She also said Englewood Hospital will head to court to plead their case.
“We now look to the legal system to uphold the guiding principles that will support the right decision for Bergen County, a decision that will support the strength of existing, thriving acute care hospitals in this region and deny the opening of a new hospital that will harm area hospitals,” Margiotta said.
Pascack Valley Hospital opened in Westwood in 1959 with 86 beds and grew to 291 beds during its tenure in Bergen County. The facility went into deep debt after a 2005 expansion and ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2007, closing in November of that year. HUMC has been operating an emergency room facility at the Westwood site since October 2008.
The new hospital is a joint project between HUMC and LHP Hospital Group Inc., headquartered in Plano, Texas. It will be a for-profit facility and is expected to open in early 2013.