State Health Commissioner Approves Westwood Hospital
The decision marks the final approval needed for the hospital to reopen.
State Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd approved Hackensack University Medical Center's plan to reopen the former Pascack Valley Hospital as a new 128-bed facility Monday, according to a 14-page letter O'Dowd wrote to HUMC President and CEO Robert Garrett.
Pascack Valley Hospital was closed in 2007 due to financial troubles and has recently had an emergency room operated by HUMC, but approval was needed before the rest of the facility could be reopened as a full-service hospital. Texas-based LHP Hospital Group, a for-profit care provider, will operate the facility. Richard S. Freeman will serve as the CEO.
Westwood Mayor John Birkner said he expects the hospital will be a positive force on the community, comparing the efforts of residents to reopen the facility over the past few years to the efforts of residents who worked to open the original hospital in the 1950s.
"It's come full circle and I'm very proud of the work that's been done to bring this hospital back," Birkner said. "It's monumental."
Governor Chris Christie is expected to address the hospital's approval at a town hall meeting at the Westwood Community Center Wednesday morning.
Englewood Hospital and The Valley Hospital, in Ridgewood, have fought tooth-and-nail to keep Pascack Valley closed. The two have argued Bergen County is already saturated with beds and another hospital re-opening would damage the fiscal integrity of care providers in the county.
In a statement issued Monday, Sen. Gerald Carindale (R-39), said Valley and Englewood should back down with its legal pursuits.
"I implore Englewood and Valley Hospitals to not delay this process through litigation aimed at preventing Pascack Valley from reopening," Cardinale said. "There is a substantial need for this hospital to resume full operations in the communities I represent. They should not be denied easy access to quality care because other hospitals fear competition."
In a statement issued Monday night, Valley's tune changed little.
"The healthcare needs of the residents of Bergen County are being well met today by Valley, Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and the other area hospitals," the Ridgewood-based hospital said. "This issue should not be about an individual hospital, or one community’s desire for a hospital to be a few minutes closer to home, but about rational healthcare planning and ensuring that quality services are available to all residents of the region."
Valley representatives did not respond when asked if the hospital will continue to pursue legal measures to keep Pascack closed.
Garrett said the reopened hospital will help extend the amount of care HUMC can provide and cut down on travel time during a medical emergency.
“Today is a great day for the people of the Pascack and Northern Valleys who have waited so long and labored so hard to reopen their community hospital," Garrett said in an official statement.