A group assembled to examine the possibility of maintaining a freestanding emergency care clinic in town once the University Medical Center at Princeton leaves for Plainsboro has unanimously agreed that an emergency clinic should go with it.
The Medical Clinic Task Force, a group of medical experts, municipal officials, and residents assembled to conduct a feasibility study geared to explore the possibility of having the hospital maintain a free-standing emergency center in town once the hospital leaves, voted last month in favor of relocating a clinic along with the hospital. Since announcing Princeton HealthCare System's intention to relocate the hospital and Merwick in January 2005, hospital officials have said that access to the new $350 million facility would be provided for those people who had no other transportation means, and that they would listen to recommendations by the clinic task force.
And now this task force agrees. Claire Jacobus, who chairs the Medical Center Task Force, was slated to make a presentation before Princeton Borough Council last night conveying the group's findings, after Town Topics went to press. But the report, released before being presented to Council, found that the volume of non-driving traffic that used the hospital was "far too low" to merit an entirely separate facility.
The task force concluded "transportation solutions are the best way to meet the clinic access needs of Princeton residents." Hospital officials again have indicated that a jitney of sorts will, at the end of the day, be more effective.
"We decided we didn't want a two-tier medical system in town, and we wanted people to access the full range of medical services this new facility will offer," Ms. Jacobus said. "Volume drives quality and the hospital has agreed to provide transportation," she added.
The task force examined a series of transportation surveys conducted since August 2004. In one survey, 146 out of 500 patient visits were made by residents of Princeton Borough and Township who walked to the clinic, indicating they did so out of necessity because they had no other means of transportation.
A second survey, this time conducted over a three-week span in July and August of this year, indicated that out of 762 visits, only 76 individuals from Princeton Borough and Township walked or bussed and had no other form of available transportation.
The task force went on to the note that 25 percent of 16,377 clinic visits in 2005 were made by those with Princeton addresses. A visit is defined in the report as the norm, as opposed to patients who need repeated treatment at the clinic.
Common diagnoses for clinic use, according to the report, include cardiovascular, pneumonia, appendicitis, cancer, orthopedic, gastrointestinal, urological, and pregnancy- and newborn-related issues. Dr. Margaret Lancefield, the medical director of the hospital's clinic said in the report that if a lesser clinic able to treat only minor conditions remained, it would be likely that a patient would have to find treatment elsewhere.
Susan Kapoor, of the Princeton Regional Health Commission, said that while a minimum of 2,000 patients are needed to maintain a clinic, and that the Princeton clinic attracts 4,000 to 4,500 patients annually, only 25 percent, or approximately 1,000 to 1,125 patients have Princeton addresses.
The task force, however, did agree that education outreach is needed throughout the communities who would most benefit from a clinic.
Consideration for a free-standing clinic to remain onsite stemmed from a February 2005 report by a separate group, the Princeton Health Care Task Force, which examined the potential developmental and health care impact of the hospital either expanding onsite or departing for a nearby municipality. In that task force's findings, a minority report issued by then Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman and then Health Commission member Dr. Norm Sissman, outlined the need for a clinic to remain if the hospital were to relocate, citing a "financial, as well as moral obligation to establish and operate such a center."
However, Ms. Trotman, who first called for a task force to examine the need for an in-town clinic, is now a member of the clinic task force that unanimously voted on September 6 to relocate all services.
Hospital Site Zoning
In related news, Borough Council last Tuesday unanimously introduced three ordinances that could one day dictate what type of development will likely occur on the hospital's Witherspoon campus, and an adjacent surface parking lot on Franklin Avenue once the hospitals relocates. The ordinances, one outlining future development standards, creating a new MRRO (Mixed Residential Retail Office) zoning district; one mandating building design standards within the MRRO; and one that would create a new zone, R4A, on the existing surface parking lot on Franklin Avenue, are seen as critical for the hospital to sell its land to a contract purchaser, the Philadelphia-based firm Lubert-Adler, and maximize the land sale that would, at least in part, help finance Princeton HealthCare System's $350 million facility.
The zoning ordinances provide a mix of commercial, residential, and office use that will convert the current uses of the hospital site.
The Regional Planning Board of Princeton will review the ordinances this Thursday, October 5, before sending them back to Borough Council where a public hearing will take place on October 24 before Council members cast a final vote on the zoning changes.
Return to Top | Go to Next Story