COVID-19 care facility opens in former East Hanover office building

A vacant East Hanover office building recently adapted into a new senior-living facility has again been repurposed to temporarily treat victims recovering from COVID-19.

The Atlantic Health System and RWJBarnabas Health have begun transferring stable COVID-19 patients to the 125-bed facility, which will continue for as long as acute-care bed capacity is needed at the hospitals.

“It is nothing short of remarkable that two of New Jersey’s premier health systems were able to come together so quickly to coordinate patient care at a facility at which they previously had no familiarity,” said Bill Colgan, managing partner of Sycamore Living-affiliate CHA Partners.

“By utilizing this facility to treat stable COVID-19 patients, each of our respective hospital systems will be better able to manage critically ill patients, which can best be done in an acute-care hospital,” said John F. Bonamo, chief medical and quality officer for RWJBarnabas Health. 

Sycamore Living at East Hanover obtained a certificate of occupancy for the new facility in January and began moving new residents into the assisted-living section on March 9, Colgan said.

But on March 2, as the coronavirus outbreak was spreading, CHA Partners and the New Jersey Department of Health held initial conversations about using any of its health care facilities for emergency care.

“As the gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic set in, [we] sought ways to assist the communities in which it owns facilities,” Colgan said.

CHA Partners then began working with Atlantic Health System and RWJBarnabas to reach the eventual agreement that would use the East Hanover location to provide post-acute care to COVID-19 patients as long as needed.

The residents who had moved into the facility were moved out to make way for the infected patients.

The four-story, 95,000-square-foot building had been owned by Novartis Corp. which has its U.S. headquarters campus across the street. 

By turning over 125 beds for post-acute patient care for emergency use during the coronavirus crisis, the facility increases the acute-care bed capacity at Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center and Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Brian Gragnolati, president and chief executive officer of Atlantic Health, said: “By forging partnerships with respected health care organizations like RWJBarnabas Health and Sycamore Living, we are truly caring together to provide patients with the highest-quality care in the most appropriate setting.”

“None of this could have been possible, from a regulatory standpoint, without the leadership of NJDOH Commissioner [Judith] Persichilli and Deputy Commissioner [Marcela Ospina] Maziarz, and their commitment to minimize the bureaucratic hurdles to ensure that expanded patient care resources be available to treat COVID-19 patients in their communities,” Colgan said.

Bloomfield-based CHA Partners also has increased bed capacity for COVID-19 patients in its Paterson and Mannington facilities. CHA previously completed similar permanent conversion projects, including the repositioning of the former Barnert Hospital in Paterson.

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