by Monte Sahlin

By Adventist Today News Team, February 12, 2014
 
Adventist HealthCare, the hospital system affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in Maryland, has announced that Hackettstown Regional Medical Center is being turned over to Atlantic Health System, one of the largest non-profit health care systems in New Jersey which is based in nearby Morristown. The boards of both nonprofit organizations have agreed to the transfer of ownership.
 
Hackettstown Regional Medical Center is a 111-bed acute care hospital located in the far western outer suburbs of New York City. It was built by the denomination's Columbia Union Conference in the early 1970s, opening for its first patients in early 1973. In its first full year of operation (1974) it had 3,387 admissions and 7,154 outpatient visits. In the most recent year on record (2012) it had grown to 111 beds and 21,816 outpatient visits to the emergency department.
 
This leaves only one Adventist hospital north of the Washington metropolitan area in the northeast region of the United States. Parkview Adventist Hospital near Portland, Maine, has also been involved for more than a year in efforts to negotiate a similar transfer to a local, secular health care organization in that state.
 
The transfer of the Hackettstown hospital is subject to state regulatory review which could span several months. Unexpected delays have undermined the transfer of the Maine hospital and may have ended the opportunities all together, which could lead to the closure of that institution or its being re-purposed significantly. The same fate is unlikely in New Jersey.
 
“Our patients are familiar with the excellent caliber of care and extensive services offered by Atlantic Health System hospitals,” said Jason Coe, president of Hackettstown Regional Medical Center. “Joining the Atlantic Health System family will give the Hackettstown community access to more specialists and services throughout the system, from cardiovascular to neonatal, to oncology, neuroscience and more.”
 
Joseph Trunfio, CEO of Atlantic Health System, stated that the Hackettstown hospital "is a natural fit” for his organization. “The hospital has served its community and region for decades, and this affiliation will provide patients in the area with expanded access to high quality, specialized services and programs.”
 
Adventist HealthCare operates five hospitals on behalf of the denomination as well as a number of other health facilities and services in the Washington region. An Adventist clinic was opened in the District of Columbia in 1904 and a sanitarium, now Washington Adventist Hospital, was built at edge of the nation's capital in 1907.
 
The joint news release from the two health care organizations noted that "while Hackettstown Regional Medical Center provides high quality health care services, operating as a community hospital post-health care reform is challenging. The organization change provides several benefits: (1) Expanded outpatient and preventive medicine services; (2) Broader patient access to pediatric and other specialty care, clinical trials, and advanced protocols for emergent care; (3) Strengthening of the primary care network, making it easier for the hospitals to cope with increased demand for services that health care reform is expected to generate; (4) Expanded evidence-based quality measurement and improvement; (5) Improved quality and increased cost savings through shared services and more efficient use of resources; and (6) Expanded access to a regional health information network.
 
Atlantic Health System is one of the most recognized not-for-profit health care organizations in the state. It employs 13,400 people throughout northern and central New Jersey, and has 1,599 licensed beds. In addition to inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services, Hackettstown Regional Medical Center has a state-of-the-art Sleep Disorders Center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine; a Respiratory Therapy department that has consistently received the Quality Respiratory Care Recognition Award from the American Association of Respiratory Care; a Wound Healing Center that offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy; the Joan Knechel Cancer Center for inpatient and outpatient infusion and radiation therapy; a Total Joint and Spine Center; a Bariatric Surgery program; a Childbirth Family Center that is equipped for water births; a Primary Stroke Center; the Counseling and Addiction Center; the Center for Healthy Living; Emergency and Critical Care services; a Laboratory accredited by the College of American Pathologists; a Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy Center; and Emergency Medical Transportation Services.
 
"The way health care is organized in the United States has been changing for decades now and the organization of Adventist health institutions has been forced to change with it," a retired church administrator told Adventist Today. "Stand alone institutions of small or modest size simply cannot survive outside of a larger organization. Adventists should be proud of the contribution their health initiatives have made in these communities and celebrate the ministry of healing that God has given us instead of taking a negative view."