How St. Joseph's, Hackensack Meridian plan to transform cancer care in New Jersey 

Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health and Paterson, N.J.-based St. Joseph's Health announced a clinical affiliation Jan. 14 to bring patients expanded oncologic services.

The new affiliation expands upon a previous partnership between the two systems with home healthcare that began in 2019.

Robert Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, and Kevin Slavin, president and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health, spoke with Becker's 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 Slavin: We've been at this for several years. We did our strategic planning several years ago. We looked across all of our services, which are very strong clinically, except for oncology, which was an area that we knew we needed to do better and strengthen. We determined that we needed a partner to do that. We wanted a partner to accelerate that to improve things throughout the region here that we serve. Through an extensive process, we selected Hackensack Meridian as the right partner, so we can advance this cancer care to the highest level possible. We had some prior positive experience with a homecare joint venture that factored into it. So the two organizations set a very common understanding of each other's mission values and made that work.

Robert Garrett: For me, and representing Hackensack Meridian, it goes back to our mission, which is to transform healthcare in our region. And we think this type of partnership can really help us do that. Sometimes you can transform healthcare on your own. There's other times that a partnership can be helpful. We think we can really take that expertise and apply that to this partnership and help so many more people in northern New Jersey. Two key partnerships that exist within Hackensack Meridian's Cancer Program at the John Theurer Cancer Center are a partnership with Georgetown University and MedStar Health in Maryland. Those partnerships will also be applied to this St. Joe's partnership. 

Q: You have been working together for two years now. How many new patients have you reached thus far through the partnership? How many do you hope to reach through the new affiliation? 

KS: When we look at our success in home care, and as well as rehabilitation, which we launched in November, I'd say it's been in the many thousands. When we look at St. Joseph's we have existing cancer care services on two of our campuses, but we want to start a new comprehensive cancer center on the new ambulatory, outpatient campus that we're developing in the town of Totowa. So, we see the number of patients that we'll serve collectively here in Passaic County to at least double, if not triple over the next five years.

RG: With respect to the cancer partnership, one of the goals of the National Cancer Institute, in terms of our designation as a major research institute, one of their major goals is to make sure that the research that's been done is applied to underserved communities. And the Paterson campus of St. Joe's serves a significant underserved community, so I think this will help further the mission of the National Cancer Institute.

KS: We're excited about that. We've had a very modest research program, but we're just so excited to get this nationally recognized program available to our patients, so those who are underserved can get the same level of cancer care as anybody in the community or the state.

Q: What are some of the features of the new infusion center?

KS: That'll be on our St. Joseph's Wayne Medical Center campus in an ambulatory facility. To date we've been providing those services in a very small location within the hospital setting. So we'll expand that to triple the size of it to 14 stations. It's conveniently located here on the campus with parking right next to the building, so this kind of provides greater accessibility for those patients. 

Q: What can you tell me about the plans for the cancer center opening in Totowa?

KS: It'll be a comprehensive cancer outpatient cancer center that'll have all the modalities and therapies on an outpatient basis radiation, chemotherapy, all the diagnostics, physician specialty care laboratory. So anything anybody needs in terms of outpatient cancer care will be there, and it will open up to the northwestern market. It's right off of Route 80, which is a major thoroughfare. So it'll make it easier for people to get cancer care on a more routine basis.

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 care is being provided in outpatient settings, when it used to be more inpatient focused. And as that becomes more outpatient focused, it's important that cancer centers that are comprehensive and have the latest technology and the expertise are closer to people's homes. I think we saw during COVID people don't want to travel as far, so we owe it to the communities that we serve to find areas and more easily accessible care sites.

Q: Is there anything else about the partnership you'd like to share? 

RG: This type of partnership is somewhat unique, but I think it really does serve the communities so much better. And we've had a good track record. There's been a history here with home healthcare and rehabilitation. Both have been very successful. And we have every reason to believe that this cancer partnership will be successful as well. I think this is a new model in terms of how healthcare can be provided where two independent organizations can come together and do what's right for the communities that they serve.

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