Deborah Heart and Lung Center awarded $1M from USDA for hospital and future pandemic preparedness

When disaster strikes, you want to be ready. The Deborah Heart and Lung Center is making sure that it will be — should the need arise.

On Friday, U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Farah Ahmad visited the South Jersey region’s only heart, lung and vascular specialty hospital to announce a $1 million Emergency Rural Health Care grant for Deborah.

The grant will allow Deborah to fortify its resources for the next pandemic response and transform the future of health care by equipping its patient rooms to meet the critical care standards necessary for treating very ill or highly infectious patients.

In addition to the grant announcement, Ahmad toured Deborah’s $108 million construction expansion project, financed by USDA Rural Development with an $88 million Community Facilities Loan and $10 million Community Facilities Loan Guarantee. The project, due to be completed in spring 2024, includes two new floors of private, critical care-level patient rooms, a staff respite area and mechanical space. The project also includes renovation work that will allow Deborah to upgrade existing patient rooms to include the same state-of-the-art features provided in the new floors, create a new pharmacy clean room, and allow for additional upgrades to the cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology labs.

Farah Ahmad. (Courtesy photo)

“Having access to quality health care is an important part of USDA’s commitment to ensuring that people living in rural areas have every opportunity to succeed — and that they can find those opportunities close to home,” Ahmad said. “The investment we’re announcing here in New Jersey demonstrates how the (President Joe) Biden-(Vice President Kamala) Harris administration is partnering with rural people to make sure rural communities can continue to access essential health care services for years to come.”

“We are grateful for this $1 million grant from the USDA,” said Joseph Chirichella, CEO and president of Deborah Heart and Lung Center. “As a rural hospital and the only specialty heart, lung and vascular hospital in the region, we serve as a critical resource for our community. Given our location, the residents in our area often have difficulty accessing specialty care without traveling long distances. This investment in our campus will help to broaden that access and do so in a way that is forward-thinking and pandemic-ready.”

Deborah Heart and Lung Center is located in a federally designated, medically underserved rural area in northwestern Burlington County.

“The USDA Rural Development New Jersey team is proud to continue to invest in and support the work of the employees at Deborah in their mission of providing outstanding care to those that come through their doors. And we are thrilled to make our first investment in Shore Medical Center and support their dedicated staff in their pursuit of providing the highest quality of care for their patients from the Atlantic County region,” USDA Rural Development State Director Jane Asselta said.