The state’s only public hospital has been in operation in Newark since its first construction in 1979, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how far the facility’s infrastructure has lagged.
Officials at the 519-bed university hospital in the state’s largest city estimate the hospital handled 83,122 emergency rooms, 15,572 inpatient admissions, and 199,804 outpatient visits in 2020.
The hospital is one of three Level 1 trauma centers in the state – the ones equipped for some of the most serious and critical medical injuries. The others are Cooper University Health Care in Camden and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
The university hospital played a key role in the region’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Brian Strom, Chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, which uses the university hospital as one of its main teaching facilities.
This was particularly relevant to Newark as it became one of the most devastated communities by the pandemic in the past 13 months.
“Given the growing need for basic services in our community, the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, a burgeoning post-pandemic mental health crisis, and the community demand for more comprehensive and specialized care, our current facilities are bursting at the seams,” it said in a statement by Shereef Elnahal, the president and executive director of the university hospital.
Elnahal was the state health commissioner before swapping places with Judith Persichilli, Elnahal’s predecessor at the university hospital in 2019. The troubled hospital was the subject of government oversight for years, and Persichilli spent much of her time as a government-appointed oversight of the facilities.
“A new, modern facility will enable us to meet and exceed these requirements to create a thriving and modern biomedical campus,” continued the hospital president. “We have also proven ourselves worthy of these investments – with significant improvements in terms of quality, financial performance, regulatory compliance and the almost universal fulfillment of all the tasks assigned to us in the Governor’s 2018 Monitor Report.”
Governor Phil Murphy’s record spending plan of $ 44.8 billion is earmarking $ 500,000 to study what exactly these new facilities at the University Hospital would be, as well as price.
The proposal to expand the hospital is supported by several key budget lawmakers, according to a statement from the university hospital.
“A new hospital will allow us to make better use of the space and build with a plan for technology upgrades for both the present and the future,” said a statement by MP Eliana Pintor-Marin, D-29th District. She chairs the Assembly’s Budgets Committee, one of the primary controls on government wallets.