Capital Health confirmed it has filed papers with the state to close its perinatal center at its Regional Medical Center in Trenton, which the hospital previously had agreed to keep in the city for 10 years.
The perinatal center, which has been open at full capacity since October, was part of the state health planning board's concerns when Capital announced its intentions to build a 660,000-square-foot facility in Hopewell.
Dave Knowlton, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and a trustee at Trenton's St. Francis Medical Center, said he wrote a letter to Mary O'Dowd, commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services, petitioning her to deny Capital's request for a certificate of need to close the Trenton center.
"I'm not saying whether the commitment was reasonable for 10 years, and whether they can afford it is another problem," Knowlton said. But "without a plan, and without a time to practice how that plan would be implemented, it's abandoning the very thing they got a lot of money for — and it's completely wrong."
Knowlton also was concerned with access to the suburban hospital for Trenton's poorest mothers-to-be.
"There's a difference between (the center) being on Bellvue Avenue, in Trenton, and being off Route 95 with no public transportation up in Hopewell," Knowlton said, though adding Capital does shuttle patients between the city and the medical center from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Jayne O'Conner, spokeswoman for Capital Health, said the system did indeed have a plan in place to transition the NICU to the Hopewell campus, and said the staff was extremely well versed in these types of transitions after the move from Trenton.
O'Conner also said more than 90 percent of the maternity patients who deliver at a Capital facility arrive by private transportation, and those who use the perinatal's special services generally plan ahead where to give birth.
"I think any business person would take a look at the decision that we're making and agree it's a good one, and it makes business sense to consolidate maternity services that are located six miles apart from each other," O'Conner said.
O'Conner said Capital had not received public funding for the perinatal center, and "construction of the RPC at Regional Medical Center was included in the same financing package we obtained through (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) for the construction of the new hospital."
Correction: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect times for Capital's shuttle service. It has been corrected above.