High 5: Bergen New Bridge celebrates anniversary of its transformation

The facility that is the Bergen New Bridge Medical Center is not new. Many of its buildings, in fact, trace their history all the way back to August 1916, when it opened as Bergen County Isolation Hospital — the first of many names and purposes.

But, to be sure, when it became Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in 2017, the facility got much more than just a name change — it was transformed into the leading health care center it is today.

Here’s what happened.

In 2017, Bergen New Bridge Medical Center was renamed by the county as part of a plan to completely transform the hospital.

An innovative alliance was formed between Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, Integrity House and Care Plus NJ Inc. to create Care Plus Bergen Inc., which manages the medical center.

Bergen New Bridge has focused on strengthening its core services of behavioral health, addiction treatment, long-term care and acute care while dramatically expanding access to care for all Bergen County residents.

Earlier this week, elected officials, dignitaries, hospital leadership and staff, community partners and many others gathered to celebrate the anniversary.

Bergen County Executive James Tedesco described the transition and transformation this way.

“On Oct. 2, 2017, we first introduced this incredible group as the new leadership team of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, focused on the mission of bridging the gap between the residents of northern New Jersey and vital, equitable health care,” he said.

“The work we’ve done here has saved the lives of countless Bergen County residents, and we are just getting started. I couldn’t be prouder of (CEO) Deb Visconi and her team for driving the incredible transformation over the last five years. Today is validation that the commitment I made eight years ago was the best decision for the county and, more importantly, for our residents.”

Other speakers talked about the start of the renaissance of the medical center, the state’s largest.

Tracy Zur, chair of the Bergen County board of commissioners, said the hospital has showed its value.

“These last five years are a testament to this medical center, who helped find and hold onto those who are struggling in our community, change their health outcomes and innovate how health care is provided to those who are most vulnerable,” Zur said.

“The list of accolades and awards Bergen New Bridge has received are a result of the sea change that has taken place here, which will allow us to continue to build and grow and thrive.”

Visconi pointed out that growth is on the way — and will come in many forms.

“Over the next few months, we will double the size of our emergency department and create a unique ‘Living Room’ concept to better care for children, adolescents and all those experiencing a mental health crisis,” she said.

There will be additional updates in technology, too.

“You will see technology enhancements that directly impact our ability to respond quickly and effectively to the health needs of our community,” she said. “These include products like AI Chat, patient care pathways, digital health information sharing systems, online scheduling and much more.”

Visconi said Bergen New Bridge will work to expand its access, too.

“(We will be) expanding our footprint directly into our communities with several new satellite locations, investing in partnerships to improve health care delivery, add diversity to data and further access to technology and care to those who need it most,” she said. “All these things continue our fight against health care disparities because, as we have learned, as a society we are only as healthy and safe from future outbreaks and public health crises as our least healthy and protected neighbor.”

Julia Orlando, chair, Care Plus Bergen board, and director, Bergen County Housing, Health, and Human Services, said she is seeing firsthand the good Bergen New Bridge is providing.

“For the last 13 years, this hospital has played a critical role in both my work and personal life, as my brother lived in long-term care here for a decade,” she said. “Now, I am transitioning another family member into the care of Bergen New Bridge.

“It is so hard to watch our loved ones unable to care for themselves, but there is comfort in having a trusted place that understands how vulnerable we become in our surrender, and how much we need them to do what we cannot. I am grateful for the power of passion, professionalism and persistence of the doctors, the health care team and everyone who works here.”