Satellite emergency department thrived beyond era of hospital closures
October 2017, Union Twp., NJ – Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of Emergency Services at Overlook – Union Campus, a satellite emergency department that not only preserved emergency care for the community but anchored further development of needed health care services on the campus of a former hospital.
The milestone was celebrated on Monday, October 23, with an event at the Union Campus that included a presentation by Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan and a congratulatory resolution from the Union County Freeholder Board to Overlook officials. The resolution was presented to Overlook president Alan Lieber by freeholder director Bruce Bergen.
“From the people who have received the finest of health care since the day that Overlook decided to make the leap into this building, there are many, many grateful ‘thank yous,’” Cryan said.
“The County of Union has long enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Overlook in assuring a continuum of care for our residents, and we look forward to many more years of this successful collaboration,” Bergen said.
In addition to Cryan and Bergen, several other local dignitaries attended the anniversary event, including: freeholders Betty Jane Kowalski, Vernell Wright and Christopher Hudak; NJ assemblyman Jamel Holley, of Legislative District 20; Union Township council members Joseph Florio, Manuel Figueiredo, Clifton People, Jr. and Michele Delisfort; Roselle Park mayor Carol Hokanson, and council member Reginald Atkins who also presented Lieber with a proclamation.
The 24-bed, full-service emergency department, which has been nationally recognized for patient care, was opened in the midst of an era of hospital closings throughout the state from the late 1990s through the mid-2000s. Among those being considered for closure was Union Hospital, which at the time was owned by a different health care system.
“We heard from many members of the community and their concerns were clear – there simply could not be an absence of emergency care in the Union area,” Lieber recounted.
Instead of seeking to acquire the facility and revive the entire hospital, Atlantic Health System instead opted to take over operations of the emergency department, turning it into a satellite emergency department, a model of care that had not been widely used in health care at the time.
“It was an unconventional solution at the time, but it was exactly what was needed,” said John Tyrrell, DO, assistant medical director of the Union emergency department, who was also director of the department before Overlook took over control. “It gave us the opportunity to focus our efforts on the services the community needed the most, and build from there.”
Over the next decade, Overlook enhanced the capabilities at the Union emergency department, which has been recognized three consecutive times by the Emergency Nurses Association with the prestigious Lantern Award™, the most recent of which was received this year. The award recognizes emergency departments that exemplify exceptional practice and innovative performance in the core areas of leadership, practice, education, advocacy and research. The Union campus was the only emergency department in NJ to receive the award in three consecutive designation cycles since the award began in 2011.
Today, the Union satellite campus sees about 40,000 emergency cases each year – well beyond the volume it did in 2006, the last full year the site was a fully-functioning hospital. In addition, Atlantic Health System has expanded into other parts of the former hospital facility to add services such as imaging, lab services, physical therapy, cardiology and wound care. The expansion continues, as oncology services are planned to be added to the facility.
“Every piece we have added has been in response to the needs of our community,” Lieber said. “At Atlantic Health System, it’s been our goal to ensure that high quality care is delivered at the right time, at the right place, and at the right cost. The Union campus is a great example of how we did that.”
About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System, headquartered in Morristown, N.J., is an integrated health care delivery system powered by a workforce of 16,000 team members dedicated to building healthier communities. The system is comprised of 350 sites of care, including six hospitals: Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center, Hackettstown Medical Center and Goryeb Children’s Hospital. Atlantic Health System also supports communities through Atlantic Medical Group, Atlantic Rehabilitation, Atlantic Home Care and Hospice, and its subsidiary, Atlantic Ambulance Corporation. Atlantic Health System sponsors the Atlantic Accountable Care Organization, one of the larger ACOs in the nation, and Optimus Healthcare Partners.