Pascack Valley Hospital should remain closed

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Thursday, August 21, 2008


We need a rational, not an emotional or political, way of looking at health care needs in New Jersey.

MORE THAN 10 years ago, during my fourth year as president of the New Jersey Hospital Association, I wrote the following in a newspaper article:

“Hospitals are important community resources, a source of security whether we use their services or simply take comfort in the fact that they’re there. It’s never easy to watch as one closes or changes to another health care mission. But the reality today is that some hospitals must close to keep in stride with a changing healthcare landscape.

“So while the heart pleads, ‘Please don’t change my local hospital,’ the mind knows that our state has too many empty hospital beds, and that the surplus is driving many hospitals into deep financial losses. Those losses could threaten quality and ultimately drag down the entire state’s health care system.”

Since then, almost 20 hospitals have closed. But I still think there are too many hospitals, and I am not alone in that thinking. The final report of Governor Corzine’s New Jersey Commission on Rationalizing Healthcare Resources (also known as the Reinhardt Commission) stated, for example, that the Hackensack-Ridgewood-Paterson area – which includes the former Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood – had a larger-than-necessary supply of hospital beds for its population.

Closing a hospital is a gut-wrenching, emotional decision, but in the end, those communities that do so are the ones best positioned for the future of health care. I believe that is exactly what has happened in Bergen County: that the people of Bergen County have stronger, more viable health care services available to them today – and will for years to come – as a direct result of having one less hospital.

Less is better
Another interesting aspect of the closing of almost 20 hospitals is that during this time, according to the findings of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, the quality of care in New Jersey hospitals has improved.

In November 2007, the Pascack Valley community of Bergen County took the tough but necessary step of closing Pascack Valley Hospital. Prior to its closing, the hospital’s occupancy rate was less than 40 percent, and since its closing there has been no report that access to care has been adversely affected. I live in a community without a hospital, and the closest one is, on a good day, 20 minutes away, and I don’t believe I have an access issue.

Now, according to “Healthy interest in Pascack” (Page L-1, Aug. 17), Hackensack University Medical Center has proposed the development of a new acute-care hospital at the Pascack Valley site. For all of the reasons I have outlined above, and many more, this is not a good plan. It flies in the face of the findings of the governor’s commission, and will only serve to weaken the hospitals that have so ably served the patients of the Pascack Valley Hospital service area.

It is tempting to say the investment of $80 million by a for-profit, outside firm is a good idea. But in reality excess capacity, regardless of whose money it is, only increases the cost of health care, and it is already too expensive. While we have taken many steps in the past decade to correct the fact that there are too many hospitals and beds in New Jersey, this would be an enormous step back. I wonder how the state could ever accept an application to essentially reopen Pascack Valley Hospital when its own commission indicated that the area had too many hospitals. The right thing to do – and, in my view, the only thing to do – is to ensure the newly established strength of existing Bergen County acute-care hospitals by not allowing another one to open.

I urge Corzine, the health commissioner and the state’s Health Planning Board to heed the conclusions of their own report and develop a statewide health plan, so that we will in fact have a rational – not emotional or political – way of looking at the health care needs of New Jersey.

As I wrote more than 10 years ago, letting our hearts win out over our minds when it comes to health care is a grave mistake. That’s something none of us wants. My mind knows that, and my heart does, too.

Gary Carter is former president of the New Jersey Hospital Association, a Princeton-based trade organization that represents 114 hospitals throughout the state.

  1. Really a stupid and misguided piece by Mr. Carter…there are more than 90,000 people living in the Pascack and Northern Valley townships.

    These folks have to drive to Valley Hospital or Englewood or even Holy Name to get quality health care.

  2. Mr. Carter maybe right. I don’t have all the facts. But, for the head of an industry association to be arguing for less competition for his constituents does not strike me as an objective and unbiased opinion.

  3. Pascack was a great hospital. I have been there as a visitor several times. My family members would rather go there then to valley. It was ruined by bad management.

    My mother went to valley by ambulance recently. She had a 9 Hour nightmare before being admitted. If she were to need a hospital ER again she will ask to go to Nyack.

  4. It would be interesting to know how far from home Mr. Carter has to travel for hospital services, especially in an emergency.

  5. Has anybody noticed that the northeast corner now has no hospital??? Being from the area and riding EMS for 15 years have you tried to go from lets say northvale, or rockleigh to anywhere near Hackensack Englewood or Teaneck during the day?? It takes forever. Try that in an ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring, it gets to dangerous for the patients, the crews, and the other drivers on the road.. If you check each hospital there are 3,032 beds for the entire county (only counting hospitals with emergency rooms) Do you think that is enough for almost 1 million people in the county?? If you do have you noticed where they all are located?? All within 10 minutes of each other except Valley Hospital which is located west of Route 17 But still a solid 30 minute ride without traffic from lets say old tappan.. Before Pascack Valley closed it was 5 minutes.. I know the state and area hospitals think there is a problem since they set up satelite paramedic units in the area to give critical patients a fighting chance, but is that enough?? It’s still not the best care, a fully staffed ER with the proper equipment and the safety of being indoors not in a moving ambulance with traffic and weather is still the safest place for a patient to be…

  6. Rational? Gary Carter? Three hospitals bunched together in the middle of Bergen County? A hospital using 3/4 of a billion dollars of healthcare money for marketing/ cosmetic upgrades? There needs to be a hospital in Pascack’s corner of the county. It was put out of business by the competition that stole doctors for competing hospitals and private ventures, and by the incompetent group from Tennessee, Cambio, that stripped the hospital of all its great qualities and ran it into the ground.

  7. Sounds like the people have spoken: Re-open Pascack Hospital!

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