Making Sense of the Dollars & Cents

In an economic downturn, the expansion of Jersey Shore University Medical Center may prove to be a boon to the local marketplace.

Completing the expansion in the face of the current downturn promotes confidence in the local economy, said John J. Gantner, executive vice president of Finance and Partner Company Operations for Meridian Health. 

“This is a magnificent investment for this area, and one we hope it also helps turn the local economy,” Gantner said.

The expansion already helped to create jobs during its construction phase.  As many as 525 local contractors and workers were employed each year on the project since ground was broken in 2006.  And by 2011, another 264 full-time jobs are projected to be added to the 3,000 employees currently working at Jersey Shore, according to Gantner.

“It will be a good cross section of well-diversified full-time employee opportunities,” Gantner said.  “Along with nurses and pharmacists, you’ll have jobs in security, environmental service, and food service.  It will represent not only more jobs but career opportunities for local residents.”

The initial planning for the expansion began almost seven years ago, long before the economy began its downturn, Gantner noted.  “This is a long-term investment providing added health care services for an area that continues to grow,” he said.  “The economy is a temporary situation.  We plan on being very, very careful with our operating costs until the economy is on a more secure footing.”

Jersey Shore’s 3,000 team members represent about 17 percent of the Neptune area’s job market and the medical center is Neptune’s largest employer.  According to a 2005 study by Rutgers University, the medical center supports about 40% more jobs in the Neptune area through it spending and the spending of its employees and their households.  These additional jobs tend to be retail and personal services jobs.

“Needless to say, Jersey Shore University Medical Center is the single most prominent economic force in Neptune.  Through spending of its employees it indirectly wields even more economic might.  It promised growth assure a positive future for Neptune,” the Rutgers report noted.

While other hospitals have experienced a decrease in demand for their services, this has not been the trend at Jersey Shore.  “For the past 10-11 years, our admissions have grown by an average of 4 percent a year,” Gantner said.  For the past two years, that growth has increased to 6 percent. 

Part of the growth reflects the continuing population expansion in the Monmouth and Ocean county area, but that is not the only reason.  Jersey Shore has continued to expand services that draw more patients, first becoming the region’s only Level II trauma center, and then adding a cardiac and stroke care programs, and now a children’s hospital.

The expansion is designed to support continued growth.  The project added 136 new beds for a 563 total bed capacity.  An additional 36-bed floor and another 12-bed intensive care unit are “shells” ready-to-go units that need only furnishings and equipment to be operational when the need arises.  The hospital can also add floors to either of its two new buildings if the demand for beds continues to increase.

As the next step in its growth, Jersey Shore could add additional academic space to its campus, or a complete pediatric wing, Gantner said.  “But that’s some distance down the road,” he said. 

Jersey Shore has also continued to grow because it has been able to reverse the trend of residents traveling outside the area for medical services.

“Residents looking for higher end medical services tended to go to north Jersey or to New York or Philadelphia for care,” Gantner said.  “But Jersey Shore has cardiovascular services, for example, that rival the best centers in the nation, and now provides medical and surgical specialties found only at advanced academic medical centers.  As Jersey Shore has continued to grow more sophisticated, people are not going outside the area as much.  It’s been a real sea of change.”

The Monmouth and Ocean county area deserve the services an expanded Jersey Shore can now offer, Gantner said.  “A facility like this is long overdue for Monmouth and Ocean counties,” he said.