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County of Bergen welcomes Care Plus Bergen Inc. as New Operator; County delivers on promise to chart a new course for integral New Jersey health care facility, transforming New Bridge Medical Center into a premier regional health care destination.
Richard Cowen, Staff Writer
PARAMUS — The long-awaited "new day" for health care at Bergen County's public hospital arrived on Monday with new management and a new name for the 101-year-old facility on East Ridgewood Avenue.
Bergen Regional Medical Center will now be called New Bridge Medical Center. Officials of Care Plus, a nonprofit partnership of mental health and addiction providers, took over the operation of the hospital Monday during a ceremony on the grounds in which they promised more transparency and increased care for veterans and addicts.
Bergen County Executive James J. Tedesco, who advocated returning control of the hospital to a nonprofit corporation after 20 years of private, for-profit management, led the ceremony on the back lawn. He promised new and innovative care, more transparency and greater accountability.
"Today, the hospital is not only going to have a new name, but it will have people in the leadership that care about people," he told the crowd.
New Bridge Medical Center is the largest public hospital in New Jersey and the fourth-largest in the country. It has over 1,000 beds, offering acute care, a psychiatric ward, behavioral health, substance abuse treatment and a nursing home.
For the past 19 years, the hospital had been run by a Colorado-based, for-profit company, originally known as Solomon Health Group. Solomon later assigned the contract to a subsidiary, BRMC, LP, which came under fire for reducing staff and skimping on repairs. That contract expired in March.
The Record reported on dozens of incidents of alleged assaults on patients and staff. OSHA later cited the hospital for safety violations.
Care Plus Bergen, which is a subsidiary of the non-profit Care Plus NJ, put together a partnership with Integrity House, a substance abuse treatment provider from Newark, and the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School to provide acute care. A consortium of private Bergen County hospitals that included Holy Name in Teaneck and Hackensack University Medical Center also put in a bid to run the facility, but in July, the Freeholder Board awarded a 19-year contract to Care Plus Bergen.
"I love this place. I've loved it for 40 years," Joseph A. Masciandaro, the interim board chairman for Care Plus Bergen, told the crowd.
The greater transparency and accountability promised at New Bridge were difficult under the private, for-profit vendor. Care Plus Bergen also plans to expand substance abuse treatment in response to the opioid crisis and to improve services for veterans. Instead of their having to travel to the Veterans Affairs hospital in East Orange, the aim is to provide those services in Paramus.
Deborah Visconi was introduced as the president and CEO of Care Plus Bergen.
"Our staff is nothing short of heroic," she said, adding that it brings "care, compassion and bright smiles every day."
As a publicly funded hospital, New Bridge will continue in one of its primary roles, providing care to the poor and indigent. But under the new arrangement, people with private health insurance will be able to receive the substance abuse treatment services.
The hospital anticipates about $212 million in annual revenue, of which 90 percent goes to Bergen County. The hospital budget will be drawn up by Tedesco's office and subject to approval by the Freeholder Board.
The county is responsible for all physical improvements to the hospital. In July, the Freeholder Board borrowed $75 million for upgrades to the building and grounds, including $20 million for improvements to information technology.
“This is a historic moment for the residents of Bergen County,” said Freeholder Chairwoman Tracy Zur. “New Bridge Medical Center will allow us to meet the needs of the communities we serve while continuing to lead the way in mental health and substance abuse treatment, which is so critical as we face a burgeoning opioid addiction crisis.”