Hackensack Meridian Health of Edison, NJ and St. Joseph’s Health, Paterson, NJ announced on January 14 a clinical affiliation to offer patients expanded oncology services.
The new affiliation expands on a previous partnership between the two systems with home health care that began in 2019.
Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Robert Garrett and St. Joseph’s Health President and CEO Kevin Slavin spoke to Becker’s on Jan. 13 to outline the goals of the new affiliation and plans for new facilities.
Question: What are the main goals of the new affiliation?
Kevin Slawin: We have been there for several years. We did our strategic planning a few years ago. We looked at all of our services, which are clinically very strong, with the exception of oncology, which was an area that we knew we needed to improve and strengthen. We have found that we need a partner for this. We wanted a partner to accelerate this to make things better across the region here where we operate. Through an extensive process, we selected Hackensack Meridian as the right partner to take this cancer treatment to the highest possible level. We had already had some positive experiences with a homecare joint venture that fed into this. So the two organizations established a very common understanding of each other’s mission values and made it work.
Robert Garrett: For me, and as a representative of Hackensack Meridian, it stems from our mission to transform healthcare in our region. And we believe that this kind of partnership can really help us with that. Sometimes you can transform healthcare yourself. There are other times when a partnership can be helpful. We believe we can really apply that expertise to this partnership and help so many more people in northern New Jersey. Two important partnerships within Hackensack Meridian’s cancer program at the John Theurer Cancer Center are a partnership with Georgetown University and MedStar Health in Maryland. These partnerships also apply to this St. Joe’s partnership.
Q: You have been working together for two years now. How many new patients have you reached through the partnership so far? How many do you hope to reach through the new membership?
KS: If we look at our success in home care and rehabilitation that we launched in November I would say it was many thousands. If we look at St. Joseph, we have existing cancer treatment services on two of our campuses, but we plan to open a new comprehensive cancer center on the new outpatient, outpatient campus we are developing in the city of Totowa. So what we’re seeing is that the number of patients that we’re going to treat together here in Passaic County is going to at least double, if not triple, over the next five years.
RG: In relation to the Cancer Partnership, one of the National Cancer Institute’s goals, in light of our designation as a major research institute, is to ensure that the research we do is applied to underserved communities. And St. Joe’s Paterson campus serves a significant underserved community, so I think this will help advance the National Cancer Institute’s mission.
KS: We’re looking forward to it. We had a very modest research program, but we are very excited to make this nationally recognized program available to our patients so that those who are underserved can receive the same level of cancer care as everyone else in the community or state.
Q: What are some of the features of the new infusion center?
KS: This will be on campus at our St. Joseph’s Wayne Medical Center in an outpatient facility. So far we have provided these services at a very small site within the hospital setting. So let’s expand that to triple the size to 14 stations. It is conveniently located here on campus with parking right next to the building so this type of accessibility is better for these patients.
Q: What can you tell me about the plans to open the Totowa Cancer Center?
KS: It will be a comprehensive outpatient cancer center that will have all modalities and therapies on an outpatient basis, radiation, chemotherapy, all diagnostics, specialist laboratory. So there will be everything everyone needs in terms of outpatient cancer care and it will open to the Northwest market. It’s right off Route 80, a major thoroughfare. This makes it easier for people to receive routine cancer treatments.
RG: That’s an important point, just to add to what Kevin said, access to world-class cancer care closer to home. More and more cancer treatments are being carried out on an outpatient basis, whereas they used to be more inpatient. And as this increasingly caters to outpatients, it is important that cancer centers that are comprehensive and have the latest technology and expertise are closer to people’s homes. I think we’ve seen during COVID that people don’t want to travel that far, so we owe it to the communities we serve to find areas and more accessible places to care.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to share about the partnership?
RG: This type of partnership is a bit unique, but I think it really serves the communities that much better. And we have a good track record. There is a history here of home nursing and rehabilitation. Both were very successful. And we have every reason to believe that this cancer partnership will also be successful. I think this is a new model for healthcare delivery where two independent organizations can come together and do what’s right for the communities they serve.