Sheila Oliver, elected leaders show support for funding to study new University Hospital facility

NEWARK, NJ — On Wednesday, April 14, N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver and other state and local officials visited University Hospital and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School to express their support for funding within Gov. Phil Murphy’s budget for planning efforts to define a new University Hospital facility in Newark. The governor’s proposed fiscal year 2022 budget contains a specific $500,000 line item for such funding.

Joining Oliver at the announcement were University Hospital President and CEO Dr. Shereef Elnahal; Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Dr. Brian L. Strom; Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka; Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr.; and state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz.

“As we move forward in our recovery from COVID-19, we cannot lose sight of the critical role that our health care system plays in the state. That is why Gov. Murphy’s budget includes significant quality-of-life investments to help make New Jersey a healthier place to live for all our residents,” said Oliver, who serves as commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs. “This proposed funding for University Hospital, for a study to explore a new plan and design for its physical campus here in Newark, is going to help address the hospital’s needs and allow it to improve the delivery of care that our communities so heavily rely on, especially as we endure this pandemic.” 

The current 519-bed University Hospital opened in 1979 and has been relying on its aging infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the community it serves. In 2020, University Hospital handled 83,122 emergency department visitors, 15,572 inpatient admissions and 199,804 outpatient clinic visits. As the Level 1 Trauma Center for Northern New Jersey, the institution and the community would also benefit from new and expanded capacity to deliver comprehensive care for its patients, according to a press release.

As the principal teaching hospital for all Newark-based medical education, a new University Hospital facility will also serve as a model for the future of academic medicine and public health, providing a premier regional resource for advanced services across many medical specialties.

“Since the Newark Accords were signed, it has been on University Hospital to deliver for Newark and Essex County, first and foremost,” Elnahal said. “With the growing primary care needs of our community, health equity lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, a budding, post-pandemic mental health crisis, and the community’s demand for more comprehensive and specialized care, our current facilities are bursting at the seams. A new, modern facility will allow us to meet and exceed these needs, in our quest to build a thriving and modern biomedical campus. We have also proven worthy of these investments — with marked improvements in quality, financial performance, regulatory compliance and near-universal achievement of all tasks placed upon us in the governor’s 2018 monitor report — and are poised to design and execute on a new campus for the community we serve.”

“The governor’s proposed budget allows us an opportunity to study what an academic health center should look like in the 21st century and how it can serve Newark and its surrounding communities,” Strom said.

Compared to 2018, the hospital has achieved significant improvement in its quality measures across an array of common hospital-acquired conditions, including central line-associated bloodstream infection by 40.3 percent; catheter-associated urinary tract infection by 47.1 percent; C. difficile by 22.6 percent; and surgical site infection by 86.2 percent. UH has also improved the efficiency of its care delivery, decreasing length of stay by 7.3 percent, and meeting the Vizient national benchmark of other complex academic medical centers throughout the country.

Additionally, year to date, UH has grown its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to more than 6 percent, a measure frequently cited by rating agencies. Through careful control of expenses and smart capital investments, UH now boasts positive bottom-line results after several years in the negative.

“An expansion of University Hospital would help improve access to health care and services for our Newark residents, while continuing to build upon the strong commitment to our community,” Baraka said.

“The hospital has been an essential resource promoting the health of our residents and contributing greatly to the economic stability of Newark and Essex County,” DiVincenzo said. “Developing new infrastructure is long overdue and will enable UH to continue to provide quality health, medical and emergency care for future generations.”

“University Hospital has been and continues to be an anchor institution in the city of Newark and a New Jersey state asset,” Ruiz said. “This tangible first step, assigning funds to explore expanding their facilities, creates a pathway to establishing it as a premiere hospital, which is both critically needed and a long overdue promise to my community. A new facility doesn’t solely open its doors to offering patients a better health care experience, it can create opportunities to expand the footprint of services offered and attract research funding. With the ongoing critical financial support from the state, UH will continue to be a place that offers equity in health care and will become one of the country’s best biomedical campuses.”