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NJ hospital defends answer to state query

The Record, September 16, 2011

Hackensack University Medical Center avoided a key question -- Did anyone die? -- when it submitted its answers to the state health department's questions regarding the proposed reopening of Pascack Valley Hospital in Westwood. Staff at the Department of Health and Senior Services had asked the medical center if anyone died as a result of the increased travel time to other emergency rooms after Pascack's closure in 2007. "Document how many patients have expired," said Question 11. HUMC substituted that question with: "Do you have any studies to support your claim that minutes make the difference?" A hospital spokeswoman said the question was changed because HUMC would not know what happened to patients taken to other hospitals. Instead, they tried to respond to the reviewer's intentions in asking the question. The questions and responses are part of a health department review of HUMC's proposal to open a 128-bed community hospital in Westwood. Once all the questions have been answered, the application will be considered by the State Health Planning Board and then the state health commissioner. A decision is expected in November.