Gov. Chris Christie visited Westwood Thursday for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting at HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley.
Christie praised the hospital's officials for their work and State Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd for ultimately approving the hospital last year. HUMC at Pascack Valley was the first hospital to receive a license from New Jersey in almost 30 years.
"I'm thrilled that this is happening and we can be part of it together," Christie said.
Christie and other officials also credited members of the community for their support in reopening the former Pascack Valley Hospital, which closed in 2007 at the same site. Christie said he gave his support to the new hospital because people in the region needed it.
"It's all about the people who will be served," he said.
After the Pascack Valley Hospital closed, HUMC operated paramedic service around the Pascack Valley and began running an emergency room at the defunct hospital. The paramedics have served more than 17,000 patients and the E.R. has seen more than 50,000, according to HUMC CEO Robert Garrett.
During that time, the state held numerous hearings about the plan from HUMC and their partner, the Texas-based company LHP, to reopen the hospital. The hearings attracted crowds of hundreds of supporters, and thousands signed petitions urging officials to approve the plan.
O'Dowd said that the residents' advocacy was "clearly heard in Trenton."
The hospital's approval faced opposition from Englewood Hospital and Medical Center and the Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, who appealed O'Dowd's decision in court. A three-judge panel upheld the approval.
Christie had previously visited the closed hospital during his first campaign for governor. At the time, he had pledged to do what he could to reopen it. Christie joked Thursday that the August day was "the hottest damn day of the campaign."
"I thought Gerry Cardinale was going to melt," Christie said.
HUMC at Pascack Valley is set to reopen June 1. Garrett thanked Christie for his help.
"Thank you, governor, for making this dream become a reality," Garrett said.
Christie also visited Westwood last year to formally announce the state's approval.
Since receiving their approval, renovations have been underway to make the hospital "state of the art," Garrett said. More than $147 million has been invested in the upgrades to the building and equipment, according to LHP CEO and President Dan Moen.
"We see this joint venture as a great opportunity to invest in this community and New Jersey," Moen said.
Moen pointed to tax dollars as one of several benefits the hospital will bring to the community besides medical care. HUMC at Pascack Valley CEO Chad Melton also noted that they have hired hundreds of employees — about 40 of whom were previously unemployed — and plan to have nearly 500 people working at the hospital by the end of the year.
HUMC at Pascack Valley will begin accepting patients at 12:01 a.m. June 1.