Depending on the route taken, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and HackensackUMC are approximately 8 miles apart. But, last week the two hospitals, that had years of legal battles, became a lot closer.
Executives from Hackensack University Health Network and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center (EHMC), announced on April 14 they entered into a new clinical and academic affiliation.
“This clinical partnership will create regional models of care with an emphasis on difficult to access services targeting multicultural communities, preventive medicines and early intervention,” according to a joint statement from EHMC and the health network.
However, the affiliation does not mean the two health care facilities will merge. Hackensack University Health Network and EHMC will continue to remain independent health care providers, responsible for their own operations and finances.
“This new collaboration will enable EHMC and HackensackUHN to enhance access to a variety of patient care services and to develop population health management programs for the benefit of the communities they serve,” said Robert C. Garrett, president and chief executive officer of HackensackUHN, who also announced last week that he is resigning as CEO and president of HackensackUMC.
The two medical facilities, said Englewood Hospital and Medical Center CEO and President Warren Geller, spent months working “and many sleepless nights” to make last week’s announcement a reality.
“The collaboration has already started,” said Geller. “It is absolutely immediate and that was the point of sitting down and developing very detailed strategies so that when it came to the execution phase we were up and running with these initiatives.”
Part of that partnership deals with population health management, Geller said.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act a greater emphasis was placed on hospitals to provide better quality care in order to receive reimbursements from Medicare. This value-based performance pays for meeting benchmarks in providing quality care and having lower readmission rates.
“The changes with the Affordable Care Act means hospitals are responsible as an entity for this patient whether or not the patient is in the hospital,” said Dr. Morey Menacker, president and CEO of Hackensack Alliance ACO, LLC, in a 2013 interview with Suburbanite. “Therefore, there is a responsibility from the hospital to make sure the follow up care is appropriate.”
“We want to keep communities healthy,” Geller said, adding that the arrangement with the health network provides greater collaboration to help patients whether its at a hospital or a specialty-care provider within the community. The two will also create a regional cardiac surgery program.
Independently, both hospitals have received heart-surgery awards, noted Garrett, and that a joint effort could “serve as a national model,” that will “further drive outstanding quality as well as improved access to cardiac surgical services for patients in the region.”
Englewood is one of the latest hospitals to join the HackensackUHN network. Last week, Garrett announced that the health network also added Summit Health Management, New Providence, which offers a wide-range of services for patients.
“EHMC will become a member of HackensackUHN, which will enable EHMC to cost-effectively implement an upgrade of information technology systems,” Garrett said. “… with opportunities to offer services at a significantly lower cost and to participate in the adoption and dissemination of clinical practices throughout the Northeast.”
In addition to Englewood and the Summit Medical Group, the health network has 13 affiliate members, four academic members – including Rutgers Medical School – and three sports affiliations, one of which is the New York Giants. It is also owns HackensackUMC and Palisades Medical Group — which will be called HackensackUMC Palisades — and is joint venture partners with LHP Hospital Group in ownership of HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley and HackensackUMC Mountainside.
“Expansion of the Hackensack University Health Network ensures that our hospitals are well-positioned for future growth,” said Garrett, “and can continue to provide the worldclass health care and service excellence to the region.”
Late last year, the network and Meridian Health announced plans to merge, creating a new system called Hackensack Meridian Health.
“With 11 hospitals throughout Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth and Ocean counties, we will be able to provide superior health care to so many of our New Jersey residents,” said Garrett.
“The two health systems have signed a memorandum of understanding, initiating a period of due diligence prior to signing a definitive agreement.”
In January, HackensackUHN and Seton Hall University announced plans to start a medical school at the former Hoffmann-La Roche site in Nutley and Clifton. Now, that partnership will include EHMC — a prospect that Geller is glad the hospital will join.
“We’re an excellent training site. We love to teach. It enhances what we do and it keeps us on the cutting edge of practices,” Geller said.
The medical school is anticipated to open in 2017. Establishing this school will help “combat the physician shortage by providing key educational, research and career opportunities to incentivize the next generation to pursue a career in medicine,” Garrett said.
A report by the New Jersey Physician Workforce Task Force found that “New Jersey is facing significant future shortages in both primary care and several specialty care areas.”
By 2020, the task force projects that shortfall at more than 2,500 “beyond the current physician graduate medical education production pipeline.”
“Establishing a school of medicine with the backing of two esteemed institutions will attract the best and brightest to the field of medicine in the State of New Jersey and help curb the critical physician shortage that the state and the nation currently face,” Garrett said.
Englewood hospital will serve as a teaching site for the medical school and graduate education programs.
“EHMC will also serve as a clinical training site for a variety of allied health students, such as advanced practice nurses, physician assistants and clinical technologies,” Garrett said.
As the school continues to develop, Geller believes that Englewood hospital staffers will have opportunities to teach at the school in Nutley and Clifton.
“I absolutely envision the medical staff having faculty appointments at the medical school, playing very active roles,” said Geller. “And that’s certainly to be determined over time what the exact role will be because it’s just in the development stages.”
Not a recent friendly past
EHMC and The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood spent many years fighting against HackensackUMC’s and ultimately its for profit partner LHP Hospital Group’s bid to reestablish a hospital in Westwood.
In 2007, Pascack Valley Hospital went bankrupt and closed.
Hackensack and LHP purchased the facility, which trigged years of legal battles. A main argument, during the time, from EHMC and The Valley Hospital was that Bergen County did not need more hospital beds.
But, in 2012, a three-panel judge rejected the hospitals’ arguments, ultimately paving the way for HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley in Westwood.
However, times have changed and so has the health care landscape, leading to the cooperative effort from the two facilities.
“I think like in any other industry, health care is evolving,” said Geller. “Things change over time. We need to be proactive in our approach here at Englewood just like Hackensack is being in adjusting to be ready for what we’re going to need to offer and look like down the road to continue to thrive at the level of success we’ve all experienced.”
The Hackensack University Health Network has nearly 1,700 beds, 11,300 employees and 3,100 credentialed medical staff members.
The health network is also part of AllSpire Health Partners, which includes six other health systems nationwide.
“I think it is exciting,” said Geller. “There’s a buzz throughout the organization. We are coming off the best year in our 125-year history. And this [affiliation] is only going to enhance that.”