Home Fast Lane Merwick Moves To Route 1; CHOP Makes Plans

Merwick Moves To Route 1; CHOP Makes Plans

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The Route 1 corridor has long been an important center of the biotech universe and an important component of the pharmaceutical industry. Route 1 is fast becoming the center of the area’s medical infrastructure too.

A January 4 announcement by Plainsboro officials that Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is considering opening a 13-acre facility on the coming Princeton Healthcare hospital campus off Route 1 is the latest in a growing set of plans that are making Plainsboro a medical hub. The campus, in addition to being the future home of the 636,000-square-foot PHCS hospital, is home to the Merwick Care & Rehabilitation Center, which recently relocated its patients from Bayard Lane in downtown Princeton and held a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, January 11 (see story below).

Last week’s $55 million sale of Forrestal Village to New York-based Investcorp brings with it speculation that the long-suffering office-and-retail park could be reinvented as a collection of medical suites (see story, page 46).

The deal with CHOP has been in the works for about the last 18 months, according to Madeline Bell, the hospital’s president at CFO. “We acquired land on the new campus, and we’re just about to launch the design process,” she says. “The township has been working very closely with us on ensuring consistency with the hospital look.”

CHOP already has a presence in the area. The hospital has a location for specialty services at 707 Alexander Road, as well as others in New Brunswick, and Voorhees. It also provides pediatric emergency consultation, inpatient pediatric care, and neonatal care at the current hospital on Witherspoon Street. CHOP has been working with PHCS to develop the pediatric unit and neonatal intensive care unit at the new hospital, which is scheduled to open in early 2012.

Since CHOP doctors will be operating the pediatrics unit at the new hospital, the new facility will complement the services provided to patients, Bell says. The facility would be for children who need outpatient visits with specialists and also serve as a diagnostics center. For example, if a child needed to visit a pediatric endocrinologist for an outpatient visit, the doctor would be located right on the new hospital campus.

CHOP officials have not submitted any official plans or details to Plainsboro, but Les Varga, the township’s director of planning and zoning, says that the area CHOP is eying is vacant land adjacent to the hospital property and is zoned for the continuing care retirement community.

Bell says CHOP’s facility would sit on a 13-acre site to the right of the main entrance of the hospital. “It will be very visible there on Plainsboro Road and at the entrance of the new hospital’s main driveway,” she says. Details on the size and extent of CHOP’s new facility will be known once CHOP submits plans to the township. Bell said CHOP would go through the normal planning process with the township.

During preliminary discussions, CHOP suggested that its new building could measure anywhere between 25,000 and 100,000 square feet, Varga says. Whatever CHOP wants, however, will likely be considered. CHOP “is one of the premiere children’s hospitals in the country,” said Plainsboro Mayor Peter Cantu. “It is important that we carefully consider their interest to come into Plainsboro Township.”

Merwick Care Center has a new name and address. Largely emptied from its longtime home at 79 Bayard Lane, the longterm care center is now called Merwick Care & Rehabilitation Center and is located on the 160-are Princeton Healthcare campus in Plainsboro.

Merwick’s Bayard Lane facility was sold to Princeton University last spring for $23 million, shortly after it was announced that Merwick would move. The new site was built and will be owned and operated by Windsor Healthcare Communities, a Norwood-based owner of longterm healthcare facilities in northern New Jersey and New York. Princeton HealthCare System will retain minority ownership in the nursing facility.

The new Merwick facility incorporates state-of-the-art design with green construction and operational elements. It boasts 200 beds, more than doubling the capacity of the downtown Princeton facility. Set across the street from the new University Medical Center at Princeton, the new Merwick center overlooks the Millstone River and will be surrounded by greenspace that includes a 32-acre public park. The park will feature bike and walking paths, gazebos, benches, and will offer views to the adjacent Millstone River.

The idea, according to Hyman Jacobs, Windsor Healthcare’s president, is to remove any vestige of dismal, obsolete nursing homes.

According to information provided by Merwick, the new facility will serve as a bridge between hospital and home for patients recovering from an illness or surgery — a place for them to prepare to return to their lives. The 80-bed sub-acute rehabilitation wing — the Luxor Pavilion at Merwick — provides the level of rehabilitative care designed to safely and quickly get patients back home.

The center boasts state-of-the-art features, including a 3,500-square foot gym behind a two-story wall of glass, where orthopedic patients of all ages can work to rebuild their strength and stamina. It also features a 12-station dialysis center for both inpatient and outpatient treatment.

For the long-term care wing, with 120 beds, Windsor Healthcare officials say they “embrace the philosophy that the later stages of life should be treated as just that — new stages that can be rewarding and fulfilling while also being safe and comfortable.”

The acute angles between buildings create distinctive outdoor courtyards, which offer visually interesting views from the interior spaces. To take advantage of that, the windows in each patient room are oversize and the skewed headwalls behind each bed angle the occupants toward those views. The effect is to reinforce the connection between the interior and exterior spaces.

“The form of the building is not different just for the sake of being different,” Jacobs said. “The layout contributes to a better experience for the residents and patients and creates a more efficient workplace for our caregivers.”

At the new Merwick, the long, straight hallways typical of older institutions are broken up by setting the doorways at an angle. Semi-private rooms are given more privacy by eliminating the traditional side-by-side bed arrangement and placing the beds on opposing walls, toe-to-toe, with a full-height wall separating them.

Windsor Healthcare isn’t new to the skilled nursing and rehabilitation care industry. It also owns the Buckingham at Norwood Care and Rehabilitation Center in Norwood and the Canterbury at Cedar Grove Care and Rehabilitation in Cedar Grover, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services.

According to published reports, Windsor Healthcare also recently purchased Ashbrook Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Scotch Plains and Greenbrook Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Green Brook from the St. Barnabas Health Care System. The reports said that Windsor Healthcare also acquired Cornell Hall Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Union and Llanfair House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Wayne.

Windsor Healthcare also operates Windsor Gardens in East Orange, Briarwood in South Amboy; and the Stratford in West Orange.

Hyman Jacobs and his family — including son Michael, vice president at Windsor Healthcare Communities and daughter Batsheva Katz, vice president of quality initiatives — talked about the importance of embracing the philosophy that the “later stages of life should be treated as just that — new stages that can rewarding and fulfilling.”

Hyman Jacobs’ own parents — who came to the country as immigrants from Europe and were in the import business — are elderly. His father is in his late 90s, and his mother is in her late 80s. “Looking at them and seeing how they are — and thanking God every day that they are well — really gave me a mandate that if I’m in this business, I’m going to do it right,” he says.

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