July 23, 2008

E.R. To Reopen at Former Pascack Valley Site ; Hackensack Med Center Hiring for Oct. 1 Debut


The emergency room at the former Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood will open on Oct. 1, its new owners said Monday.

Hackensack University Medical Center North at Pascack Valley, as it will be called, is already hiring doctors and nurses for the new emergency department.

The sole physician on site most hours will have a robot to beam medical information to and from the department head at Hackensack University Medical Center and other sub-specialty physicians.

"It's really happening," said John Ferguson, Hackensack's chief executive officer, as he led a group of local officials and reporters through the areas under renovation. "We're tearing things down, putting things up."

The facility's opening date is definitely Oct. 1, he said. "I don't accept Oct. 2."

The emergency department is the same size 14 bays for patient care as it was under the previous owners. There will be no overnight beds for patients. Anyone requiring more advanced care or more than 12 hours of observation will have to be transferred to another hospital.

Hackensack will submit an application by month's end for state approval to open a 120-bed community hospital on the site, Ferguson said. Despite anticipated opposition from competing hospitals and the recommendations of a governor's commission that fewer, rather than more, hospital beds are needed in North Jersey Ferguson said he was "totally confident" the community hospital would open.

Once approved, the first beds would open in February, said Robert Kohler, a Hackensack vice president, with the rest within 2 years. Construction is expected to total $60 million.

Westwood Mayor John Birkner Jr., who joined the tour, said he was pleased with the progress.

"The whole community wants this hospital to reopen," he said. Hackensack is donating a van to the borough of Westwood to replace one that had been used to transport senior citizens, he announced during the tour.

Hackensack is sinking $1.8 million into preparations for the free- standing emergency department, Kohler said: $800,000 for interior, "cosmetic" improvements, and $1 million to reseal the weedy parking lot and improve the entryway and roads.

The E.R. anticipates about 11,000 patient visits in its first year, with 20 percent requiring hospital admission, said Dr. Joseph Feldman, chairman of emergency medicine.

First-aid squads will be advised that patients with life- threatening emergencies, such as potential heart attacks, should be taken directly to full-service hospitals, said Lisa Iachetti, the emergency department's director of nursing. People under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and women more than 20 weeks pregnant, also should bypass the free-standing emergency department, according to state regulations.

So far, 18 nurses and five physicians have been hired, Iachetti said. They are considered employees of Hackensack University Medical Center, Iachetti said. Hackensack is a non-union hospital, while nurses at the former Pascack Valley were members of the Health Professional and Allied Employees union. The nurses already are working in Hackensack, and will be rotated to Westwood when it opens, she said.

The free-standing E.R. will have a laboratory and imaging facilities, with radiology, CT scan and sonography. Food service will be transported from Hackensack, with vending machines on site. The medical-imaging department also will be open for outpatient visits.


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