Newark Beth Israel to host groundbreaking for $100M renovation project

Moment of a lifetime for CEO Terry, who says it will help medical center better connect with community it serves

A rendering of the planned renovation. (File photo)

Darrell Terry is Mr. Newark Beth Israel. He was born at the hospital, he met his wife at the hospital, they had their first two kids at the hospital — and he and his wife saw their first grandchild born at the hospital.

But not all the memoires are picture perfect for Terry, who started working at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in 1997 and became its CEO in 2016. He tells the story.

“When I was when I was a kid, I grew up not far from here,” he said. “We used to come down Lyons Avenue on our way to Weequahic Park. This place looked fortress-like. It did not look welcoming.

“I’m sure great things were going on here — there was no question about that. But it felt like a fortress, it felt disconnected from the community that it served.”

Starting Tuesday, Terry is helping to make sure the current generation of kids doesn’t have that same feeling.

Newark Beth Israel, an RWJBarnabas Health facility and anchor institution in the South Ward of Newark, is announcing an extensive $100 million renovation project, the largest expansion of the hospital since 1967.

And, while Terry and others will talk about the improvements that will be made to its maternity ward, cardiac care, intensive care, emergency department and other areas, none of the upgrades is as important as the new façade the hospital will get — a 17,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed welcome center.

It is literally going to change the face of Lyons Avenue and help us connect with our community in a meaningful way,” he said. “This will do that.

“We wanted to do a project that really made a statement to the community that we’re here, we’re here to stay, that this community is worth the expense that we’re going to make.

“We’ve done a bunch of things in the past internally to modernize the hospital and stay current on all kinds of technology and equipment, but we haven’t done things that interacted directly with the community that we serve. This project is transformative in that regard.”

Terry spent a few moments with ROI-NJ on the eve of the announcement. Here is a look at the conversation, edited for space and clarity.

Darrell Terry. (File photo)

ROI-NJ: We can feel the pride you have in this institution, one that is connected to so many parts of your life. Talk about the road you took to get to this renovation, one that will take Newark Beth — an already-highly regarded medical center — to another level?

Darrell Terry:  When I took over as president of this hospital, there had been a bunch of transformations as far as the clinical activity is concerned. We became an ‘A’ hospital in the Leapfrog safety ratings. Newsweek made us one of the world’s best hospitals.

These kinds of accomplishments, as well as how we interacted with the community, made Newark Beth Israel investment-worthy. So, under the leadership of Marc Berson, the former chairman of the board and now the chairman of the entire system, and our current chair, Frank Giantomasi, we decided we wanted to do something that really connected Newark Beth Israel with the community that it served.

When we started to come up with the specifics of the project, the decision was unanimous, there were no dissenters.

ROI: How much can this help Newark?

DT: We are hopeful that this new entrance is going to spur other investment into the South Ward. We want to show this is about Newark as much as it is about the hospital.

ROI: Of course, the renovation represents an upgrade for the hospital, too. Talk about some of the things you’ll be able to do.

DT: We’ve renovated every maternity bed, so they are all private spaces for loved ones to share the experience with the mom. In addition to that, we are expanding the emergency department to meet the current growth. We are adding a new hybrid (operating room) for complicated cardiac procedures.

We are really going to transform our heart failure and transplant department. It’s been our signature service, and now it will look like the nationally recognized service that it is.

In addition to that, we’re going to have a brand-new ICU. Newark Beth Israel has one of the highest intensity of care cases in the state. And our ICU will be reflective of the great care that’s being rendered.

We wanted to make sure that the aesthetics of the services were consistent with the great quality of care that’s being provided and has been provided.

ROI: The plans for this upgrade have been in the works since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. But, we’re guessing that changed the design a bit. Talk about what you might be doing differently now.

DT: We’re obviously now looking at any waiting space to incorporate some social distancing aspects. We’re working with our contractors to make sure that, if there are any new HVAC requirements or best practices, that we are implementing them. Essentially, we are looking at everything related to the physical plant as to how can we have our employees and our patients be safer.

ROI: Last question: What is the announcement going to be like for you — someone who has been connected to the hospital literally since birth?

DT: I’m really excited about this. You have no idea. This is really big. Big for the hospital. Big for the neighborhood. This is going to be a big day.