COVID-19 Update

Brian Strom
Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom said the governor's proposed budget provides an opportunity to study what an academic health center should look like in the 21st century.
Courtesy of University Hospital

Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom joined state and local officials, including N.J. Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver, during a visit to University Hospital and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in support of funding for planning efforts for a new University Hospital facility in Newark included in Gov. Murphy’s proposed budget.

The governor’s fiscal year 2022 budget contains a $500,000 to begin planning for a new hospital facility.

“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 state 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,” she said.

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. In 2020, the 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, officials said.

As the principal teaching hospital for all Newark-based medical education, a new University Hospital facility would 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, officials said.

“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,” said Strom. “As we dream about what a new University Hospital could look like, Rutgers will continue our important work with the city of Newark like partnering with the city on the COVID-19 pandemic response, conducting robust and life-changing research and delivering quality patient care across a spectrum of specialties within the region.”

Also at the event on Wednesday were University Hospital President and CEO Shereef Elnahal, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., and New Jersey State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz.

“Since the Newark Accords were signed, it has been on University Hospital to deliver for Newark and Essex County, first and foremost,” said Elnahal. “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 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's Report – and are poised to design and execute on a new campus for the community we serve. We thank Gov. Murphy and our state, county and local leaders for their steadfast support as we continue to plan the future of University Hospital,” he said.

Lt. Sheila Oliver
Lt. Gov. Sheila Y. Oliver serves as commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs. Courtesy of University Hospital.

In recent years, University Hospital has seen dramatic improvements in the quality of care delivered to patients and the financial performance of the operations. Compared to 2018, UH 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%; catheter-associated urinary tract infection by 47.1%; C. difficile by 22.6%; and surgical site infection by 86.2%. UH has also improved the efficiency of its care delivery, decreasing length of stay by 7.3%, and meeting the Vizient national benchmark of other complex academic medical centers throughout the country.

Simultaneously, the hospital’s leadership team has focused on operational efficiency, achieving results that the state’s monitor called for in 2018.  Year to date, UH has grown its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization to more than 6%, 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.

Completing more than 90% of the state monitor’s recommendations and invigorated by the momentum built over these last few years, University Hospital is destined for excellence, which will continue to be reflected in future reporting that includes more recent data, officials said.

“An expansion of University Hospital would help improve access to healthcare and services for our Newark residents, while continuing to build upon the strong commitment to our community,” said Baraka. “I’m thankful for Dr. Elnahal’s vision and for the leadership of Gov. Murphy, our state legislators, county and local partners for believing in the significance of the support this brand new facility can bring for so many families and further strengthen our entire health and medical community, especially as we emerge from the pandemic.”