September 25, 2008

ER to Reopen Next Wednesday


The emergency room at the former Pascack Valley Hospital is to reopen next Wednesday at 9 a.m.

Final licensing approval was granted Tuesday afternoon by the state Department of Health, said Marilyn Riley, a spokeswoman. The department's inspectors visited the newly renovated department last week.

"It's going to open, definitely and without a question, on Oct. 1," said John Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Hackensack University Medical Center, which bought the bankrupt hospital in partnership with Touro University College of Medicine last February.

Hackensack will operate the site as a satellite emergency department. It will have no overnight beds, and patients who require more than 12 hours of observation will be transported to Hackensack. Anyone with a life-threatening emergency or a complex medical problem should go directly to a full-service hospital.

"This is Step One," Ferguson said. "Step Two is the community hospital."

Hackensack has applied for state approval to open a full-service 128-bed hospital at the site, with an $80 million investment from Legacy Hospital Partners Inc., of Texas, a private company. The certificate of need application was filed last month and is being reviewed by the state Health Department. Once it is deemed complete, a public hearing will be scheduled.

The scheduled reopening of the emergency department less than a year after it closed was welcomed by volunteer first-aid squad members. Longer drives to The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck and Hackensack have added time -- and fuel costs -- to each ambulance run, said Bill Kroepke, president of the Pascack Valley Volunteer Ambulance Association.

"I'm happy to see it reopen," he said. "It will increase our availability. Sometimes we'll be heading for Holy Name, and we'll hear on the radio that there's another call in town that requires a rig."

Over the summer, the emergency-department staff at Hackensack met with emergency responders to explain what types of patients should be brought to a satellite emergency department, said Dr. Joseph Feldman, Hackensack's chairman of emergency medicine. "I think they're fully aware of what types of patients are appropriate," he said.

The public should call 911 and be guided by the advice of the emergency dispatchers, he said.

Hackensack has hired nine emergency physicians, said Ferguson, and more than 40 other personnel, including nurses, respiratory therapists and lab and imaging professionals.

The ER will be staffed around the clock with one physician and one physician's assistant or advance-practice nurse, Feldman said. The department will use a robot to beam medical information to specialists and sub-specialists at the hospital in Hackensack.

Westwood Mayor John Birkner said residents would be relieved.

"We expected it [to reopen], but of course, we're happy to see it," he said. "Hackensack has been working hard. They've shown a commitment to get it done."


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