Middlesex County, with eye toward workforce development, commits $25M to Rutgers Cancer Institute

Seeing an opportunity to create workplace opportunities for the next generation as well as contributing to a state-of-the-art cancer facility, Middlesex County officials announced Wednesday that they are making a $25 million commitment to the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

The money will key job training initiatives at Middlesex County College as well as the county’s vocational and technical schools, Freeholder Director Ron Rios said. It was made possible by the sound financial moves the county has made over the past decade.

Rios said the core of every decision made in Middlesex County “is a focus on innovation, which stems from fostering strong partnerships with leading organizations across government, educational organizations and the private sector, as well as investing in our residents.”

Steven K. Libutti, who will serve as director of the institute and is a senior vice president, oncology services, RWJBarnabas Health, agreed.

He expressed gratitude for the partnership with Middlesex County, Middlesex County College and Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools “to foster innovation and discovery, as well as the robust educational prospects that will be created in the new cancer pavilion as a result of this relationship.”

The announcement came during a virtual press conference that featured Rios along with New Brunswick city officials, members of RWJBarnabas Health, which will run the center, and New Brunswick Development Corp., which will develop the project.

RWJBarnabas Health CEO Barry Ostrowsky said the Cancer Pavilion will be a model for cancer care delivery on the East Coast, bringing the three mission areas of academic medicine — research, education and patient care — together.

“This is further evidence of the tremendous value being provided to area residents through the broader partnership between Middlesex County and RWJBarnabas Health,” he said.

When completed, it will be the state’s first free-standing comprehensive cancer pavilion. This world-class facility will provide essential patient care in the treatment of cancer as well as create a “bench to bedside” approach to provide a greater connection between research and treatment.

The institute is being designed to create the safest, most efficient environment for integrated cancer care and delivery. The $750 million project will allow for the consolidation of key cancer services into a single location including those for chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as major diagnostic modalities, in a 12-story structure, comprised of over 510,000 square feet.

It will be the state’s only oncology inpatient hospital. And the consolidation of services into a single cancer pavilion will provide greater opportunities to serve patients while improving the overall patient experience, officials said.

The space will also feature research laboratories, enabling physician-scientists to more rapidly translate scientific findings from laboratory bench to patient bedside, resulting in clinical assessment, feedback on clinical trials and collection of research data in a more rapid and direct fashion.

DEVCO President Chris Paladino said New Brunswick has always been a laboratory for public-private partnerships that have impact on the quality of life for people who live, study, discover and work in the city. He calls the Cancer Institute the latest success story of the partnership.

“It’s not hyperbole when I say this is our greatest accomplishment yet,” he said. “These are groups that have partnered before; and they know how to do partnerships.

“During this time of COVID-19, New Jerseyans will tell you that when they gather around the kitchen table, health care is the No. 1 topic they talk about. Today, we’re able to address that with no cost to the taxpayers.”

The commitment is only possible due to the strong financial health of Middlesex County. At a time when the world is facing an economic downturn, Middlesex County’s strong “AAA” bond rating ensures that its financial sustainability is unmatched in the state.

County officials said Middlesex has achieved this position by reducing its overall debt by 35%, or a staggering $250 million, over the last five years, while increasing its retained surplus position to $80 million through sound, strategic financial planning.

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