Hackensack Meridian is betting big on long-term care

Edison, N.J.-based Hackensack Meridian Health is adding three nursing homes to its network in a $65 million deal that aims to bolster its post-acute care presence in northern New Jersey, the 17-hospital system announced on July 30.  

After about a year of negotiations with Tandem Management Co., Hackensack Meridian assumed full ownership of Regent Care Center in Hackensack, N.J., and took a majority stake in West Caldwell (N.J.) Care Center and Prospect Heights Care Center in Hackensack.

The move is part of Hackensack Meridian's strategy to bring more nursing and rehabilitation services under its wing as the industry continues to shift care to lower-cost settings outside the hospital. It also prepares the system to meet the needs of New Jersey's growing elderly population. The state's population of seniors is expected to grow by 62 percent between 2010 and 2030, which means about 1 in 5 New Jersey residents will be over age 65 by 2030, according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. 

"We believe at Hackensack Meridian that we should be providing the full continuum of care for the patients we serve and the communities we serve," Hackensack Meridian CEO Robert Garrett told Becker's. "It's important for us to make sure that there's a seamless continuity of care when patients need post-acute care services. It's [an] important part of our network — a growing part of our network."

The merger brings the health system's nursing home count to 13, and two of the new facilities are located within a mile of the system's flagship Hackensack University Medical Center. The nursing homes' names have been changed to reflect the Hackensack Meridian Health brand, and their roughly 750 employees will join Hackensack Meridian's team.

Hackensack Meridian is recruiting to grow the number of staff at the facilities, according to Joseph Lemaire, Hackensack Meridian's president of diversified health ventures. "Our biggest challenge — we were at Prospect Heights today — is finding enough staff to treat the patients," Mr. Lemaire told Becker's. Currently the patient census at the three nursing homes is lower than the others in Hackensack Meridian's network.

"Because of the aging population and because acute care stays continue to decrease, I think this is going to be a very high-growth segment of the industry," Mr. Garrett said. "We are all-in at Hackensack Meridian in making sure that [long-term care is] part of our network and really thrives, and that we're getting the same quality of care in the post-acute care setting as we are in the acute care setting."


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