MAYOR BOOKER, STATE ASSEMBLY SPEAKER OLIVER, ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO AND STATE AND COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS VOICE CONCERNS OVER PROPOSED MERGER BETWEEN UMDNJ AND RUTGERS
UMDNJ recognized as a vital reDest and great economic engine for the State and region;
University Hospital currently functions as the region’s only tier one trauma center
Newark, NJ – November 18, 2011 – Mayor Cory A. Booker, State Assembly Speaker (D-Essex) Sheila Y. Oliver, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Council President Donald M. Payne, Jr. and a coalition of State and Essex County elected officials held a press conference today in Newark City Hall to voice their concerns about the future of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). During the press conference, the coalition of elected leaders said the University of Medicine and Dentistry must remain strong and vibrant because it is as a vital reDest and great economic engine for the State and the region.
The UMDNJ Advisory Committee is a task force that was convened by Governor Christie on April 4, 2011 and is scheduled to release its final recommendations sometime next month on the proposal which would turn over UMDNJ’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the School of Public Health and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey to Rutgers sometime next month. The proposal has already been endorsed by Governor Christie.
“New Jersey has invested tremendous reDests and energy in making Newark a critical, internationally competitive state hub for higher education, and particularly graduate education. With six colleges and universities – NJIT, UMDNJ, Rutgers-Newark, Berkeley College, Essex County College, and Seton Hall Law School – attended by over 40,000 students, Newark is clearly one of America’s top education cities. Any plans for reorganizing UMDNJ and its assets must contribute to the continued vibrancy, strength, and growth of higher education in the greater Newark region,” said Mayor Booker.
During the press conference, Mayor Booker declared that the coalition of state, county, and elected officials has unified to announce their support of the following five principles:
1. Any reorganization must improve upon these critical offerings by supporting the continued functioning of University Hospital as a state-supported research and teaching hospital, partnered with an institution of higher learning.
2. Any plans for reorganizing UMDNJ and its assets must contribute to the continued vibrancy, strength, and growth of higher education in the greater Newark region.
3. A comprehensive, substantive and deliberative process must be established in order to serve the highest aspirations of our entire state.
4. Given New Jersey’s current financial challenges, and the potential burden on taxpayers, a detailed financial accounting must be undertaken before any alterations of UMDNJ or its assets takes place. This is the only way to allow for a true cost-benefit analysis.
5. Any changes to UMDNJ should be additive to the overall competitive and economic strength of our region and state.
“UMDNJ will remain in Newark and the hospital will remain in Newark,” said County Executive DiVincenzo.
University Hospital currently functions as the region’s only tier one trauma center. It also serves as a vital safety net hospital for tens of thousands of New Jerseyans and is a top New Jersey provider of low-income community outreach and clinics. As a critical homeland security asset, UMDNJ is a globally renowned research institution responsible for groundbreaking medical advancements including, for example, recent work in the treatment of tuberculosis. According to the coalition, any reorganization must improve upon these critical offerings by supporting the continued functioning of University Hospital as a state-supported research and teaching hospital, partnered with an institution of higher learning.
“The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey is a banner institution and a stalwart partner in the city of Newark and throughout the Essex County. The countless number of lives that are saved from emergent circumstances cannot be understated. I am firmly committed to the mission of UMDNJ and University Hospital. I, along with my Municipal Colleagues, are not only committed to UMDNJ remaining in Newark but also dedicated to the growth and continued success of this stellar institution. Their commitment to excellence in providing health care to underserved communities is equaled only by their commitment to medical innovation. Under the leadership of Dr. William F. Owen, UMDNJ has done more than breakthrough; they are poised to breakout and become the premier institution for medical research, innovation and patient care in the state of New Jersey,” said Council President Payne.
Assembly Speaker Oliver criticized the UMDNJ review process as inadequate and stated that any reorganization of UMDNJ assets will prove extraordinarily complex, expensive and will have profound consequences for medical education, healthcare delivery, employment, and economic strength across the State.
“When it comes to this issue, nothing is more important than ensuring quality and accessible health care for Essex County residents, and I am not convinced that this merger plan protects that priority. Unfortunately it seems as though haste has taken precedence over thoughtful deliberation and careful planning. The Advisory Committee’s incomplete interim report should not be used as a blueprint for action, and any decision should wait for a full presentation of all of the facts that especially analyzes how a merger would impact patient care. Nothing should move forward on this issue until we fully understand how this will impact Essex County residents,” said Assembly Speaker Oliver.
UMDNJ currently employs thousands of area residents in quality jobs, enhances local employment by supporting neighboring businesses, and greatly adds to the overall economic strength and vibrancy of New Jersey. The reorganization of UMDNJ assets will require the refinancing of significant existing debt, and the probable issuance of new debt to cover transitional costs. It is estimated that transitional costs and debt structure could exceed two billion dollars. In 2003, costs were estimated at $1.3 billion, and there has been an increase in debt since that time.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) was established in 1981 and comprises the state’s only three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, school of health related professions, school of nursing and a school of public health on campuses in Newark, Piscataway/New Brunswick, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ also operates UMDNJ-University Hospital in Newark and University Behavioral HealthCare. It is affiliated with more than 200 health care and educational institutions throughout the state.