July 15, 2008

Medical School Plans Delayed; Accreditation Hitch Pushes Debut to 2010


Touro University College of Medicine will delay its opening at least a year to 2010 after failing to attain accreditation with the agency that approves medical schools.

The state's newest medical school had anticipated opening its doors to a first class of 40 students in fall 2009. It bought the bankrupt Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood in a partnership with Hackensack University Medical Center this past spring.

At its June 30 meeting, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits new medical schools, did not give TouroMed "preliminary accreditation" required for the school to advertise and recruit students. Preliminary accreditation is the third of five steps leading to full approval.

Members of the committee made a site visit to Touro's Hackensack headquarters in early March.

"The fact that we did not definitively own the property of the former Pascack Valley Hospital at the time of our site visit in March was a significant contributor," Dr. Paul Wallach, TouroMed's dean, said in a prepared statement.

Touro and Hackensack had won the auction for the property but did not take title to the property until April.

"Even though the closing and zoning had gone through before the [committee's June 30] meeting, it occurred after the site visit," Wallach said. Information received after a site visit is not considered, school administrators said they were told.

"We were disappointed" in the committee's decision, Wallach said.

Administrators had been mindful of the tight timetable they had to meet to open the school in August 2009. At one point, the date of the bankruptcy auction was moved forward so that the result would be known before the site visit. But that was not enough.

Nevertheless, the medical school is pushing ahead with its plans and will reapply for preliminary accreditation next year, he said.

"We are still actively recruiting faculty," said Sharon Dilling, a spokeswoman. "Our current faculty are working hard on enhancing the curriculum" and starting community outreach and grant applications, she said.

Eventually, the four-year program is to have 100 students in each class. Hackensack University Medical Center will serve as the school's primary clinical affiliate.

The hospital, meanwhile, is on track to reopen emergency services at the former hospital in October, said Anne Marie Campbell, its spokeswoman.


Hospital plans

Hackensack University Medical Center plans to open emergency services at the former Pascack Valley Hospital in October. Hackensack also plans to eventually open a 150-bed community hospital at the site.


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