NEWARK — Nearly eight years since Newark’s Saint James Hospital was shut down, elected officials gathered on Monday to celebrate the opening of a new health center designed to serve residents affected by the hospital’s closure.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of the Saint James Federally Qualified Health Center in the city’s Ironbound neighborhood, which officials said would significantly expand quality health services to thousands of local Latino families.
“Investments in our community health centers – like Saint James – are exactly the kind of investments we must make if we want all of our communities and families to prosper,” U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a news release about the event.
“Newark continues to expand access to quality, comprehensive and affordable health care services,” Baraka said in the release. “This clinic is another step forward, the result of collaboration and partnership with our federal legislators, Essex County, the Obama administration and the City of Newark.”
The facility at 228 Lafayette St. is meant to help fill the shortfall in access to medical care since Saint James Hospital closed in 2008. After the hospital was shuttered, many local residents did not visit doctors or relied on emergency rooms at other city hospitals, the release states.
Now the multilingual staff at the new center will be providing primary care, OBGYN, pediatrics and internal medicine, the release states.
The center – which is funded in part with $600,000 from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare – is expected to serve 4,000 patients this year, operating five days a week, and offering extended weekend and evening hours, beginning in the spring, according to the release.
Nicole Fields, President and CEO of Saint James Health, said in the release that her organization was founded in 2014 “to fill the gap in primary care left by the closure of Saint James Hospital, to improve health outcomes and to guarantee access to culturally competent care, specifically in the East Ward.”
“Our residents are not traditional health care patients. Here many residents face language and cultural barriers. They may not have proper health insurance,” Fields added. “Most critically they are experiencing disproportionately high rates of asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. This trend must be reversed if we are to reach the goal of a healthy Newark.”