Saint Peter’s is committed to equal health care for all

As a Catholic hospital with a 115-year history and one of the few remaining independently operated hospitals in New Jersey, Saint Peter’s Health System has always had, as part of our mission, a commitment to provide exemplary health care regardless of socioeconomic status, especially of the underserved and most vulnerable. Based in New Brunswick, where 34% of residents live below the federal poverty level, we see a daily need that requires us to responsibly care for those who cannot afford basic health care services.

A key focus of our efforts beyond the 478-bed acute care teaching hospital on our main campus on Easton Avenue is the Saint Peter’s University Hospital Family Health Center, an outpatient service center that provides approximately 60,000 visits annually to a population that largely degree is underinsured and uninsured. Located at 123 How Lane in New Brunswick, St. Peter’s Family Health Center has a long-standing commitment to supporting diverse groups of low-income children and adults. The majority of people who seek care at St. Peter’s Family Health Center speak Spanish. To best serve our patients who speak a language other than English, we also have a system that can translate over 100 different languages.

Focusing on the social determinants of health, Saint Peter’s recently launched an education program to clearly communicate to patients the benefit programs they may be eligible for, ie. help with food, childcare, bills, tax credits and more. In addition, St. Peter’s identified transportation issues that may affect the community’s ability to access health care.

The services provided at St. Peter’s Family Health Center are extensive.

Approximately 6,000 adult patients visit the Senior Family Health Center annually for primary and subspecialty care, which includes gastroenterology, neurology, endocrinology, podiatry, nephrology and ophthalmology. Patients may also be referred to St. Peter’s University Hospital for pulmonary disease, oncology, cardiology, surgery, wound care, and more.

Based in New Brunswick, where 34% of residents live below the federal poverty level, St. Peter’s Health System sees a daily need that requires the team to responsibly care for those who cannot afford basic health care services.

The Pediatric Faculty Group provides primary and specialist pediatric care from newborn to adult, with over 21,000 visits per year. Administering more than 26,000 immunizations, with the addition of COVID-19 vaccines, St. Peter’s Family Health Center is a leader in the Vaccines for Kids program, a federally funded effort that provides free vaccinations to children who might not otherwise receive be vaccinated due to their family’s inability to pay.

Saint Peter’s Women’s Ambulatory Care Services offers obstetric care for women, from prenatal, during labor, to postpartum care, as well as routine gynecological care. Services include nutritional counseling, social work referral, financial counseling, ultrasound monitoring, and collaborative management with referral to St. Peter’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine when needed due to high-risk factors. Maternal health patients served by St. Peter’s Family Health Center represent approximately 1,500 births and 19,000 OB/GYN outpatient visits annually. Saint Peter’s provides women’s reproductive health care to women of all ages, including adolescents, women of childbearing age, and women seeking postmenopausal care. Referrals are also provided to physicians at Saint Peter’s who specialize in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery for the evaluation and treatment of such conditions as cervical and uterine cancer, uterine fibroids and polyps, and endometriosis.

Saint Peter University Hospital’s For KEEPS (Kids Embraced and Empowered through Psychological Services) program is a state-of-the-art short-term acute partial hospitalization unit offering high-quality mental health diagnoses and intensive treatment for children ages 5 to 17. , who suffer from emotional and behavioral difficulties. Licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, the offerings provided by this program include individual, group, and family therapy; academic training in collaboration with the child’s school district; and medication management. Established in 2002, the For KEEPS program has been lauded as a model for partial hospital programs for children across the country.

At the Dorothy B. Hersh Regional Child Protection Center, a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals, including board-certified pediatricians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers, offers assistance to children and their families in the assessment and treatment of physical and emotional injuries caused by abuse and neglect to children. As one of four state-designated child protection centers, the Child Protection Center serves seven counties in central New Jersey. Staff provide crisis intervention, child abuse assessments and referrals to community resources.

In addition to the wide variety of services provided at the Family Health Center, St. Peter’s Community Health Services Department has a long history of serving the health needs of the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, public health services were at the forefront of efforts to reduce the spread of the virus. As part of that, nearly 40,000 vaccines were administered to adults and children, including those attending Catholic schools in the Diocese of Metuchen, at the hospital’s vaccine clinics and on-site at public schools in Carteret and New Brunswick. Saint Peter’s continues to provide COVID-19 vaccine clinics at both Saint Peter’s Family Health Center and the main hospital.

In partnership with the Middlesex County Office of Health Services and the Healthier Middlesex Consortium, Saint Peter’s distributed coronavirus treatment kits in the hardest-hit New Brunswick neighborhoods of Esperanza and Unity Square. These neighborhoods consist primarily of multifamily housing where many people live together, thereby increasing the risk of adverse health conditions and community spread. Our community outreach efforts seek to eliminate disparities that have a direct impact on personal health and access to health care resources. The materials we distributed included bilingual health information, masks, hand sanitizer and soap to support residents’ prevention efforts. Distribution sites include local parks, churches and food distribution centers.

Leslie Hirsch, President, Saint Peter's

Hirsch

I am also very excited to announce that Saint Peter’s is currently in the process of expanding the capabilities and capacity of the Family Health Center. Over the next few years, our goal is to increase the number of visits to the Family Health Center to 100,000 per year so that more people and families from a wider geographic area can benefit from our diverse services. This initiative will include a multi-million dollar expansion and modernization project taking place between 2022 and 2023, which will result in an additional 20 examination rooms and sufficient clinical space to allow physical therapy and other services. By expanding St. Peter’s Family Health Center, we can continue to serve generations of families in our community and beyond, providing excellent care to a diverse population regardless of socioeconomic background or ability to pay—all in support of our rich 115-year Catholic mission of providing care for those in need, often the most vulnerable among us.

Leslie Hirsch is president and CEO of St. Peter’s Health System.

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