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Hackensack University Medical Center goes mobile to assist after Sandy

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Hackensack University Health Network President and CEO Robert C. Garrett (right) offers free gas to caregivers.
Hackensack University Health Network President and CEO Robert C. Garrett (right) offers free gas to caregivers.

Anyone who has traveled down the Garden State Parkway knows there is a lot of mileage between Bergen County and Ocean County, but Hackensack University Medical Center tried to bridge the gap between the hospital and the shore during relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Hackensack deployed a mobile emergency satellite department to Ocean Medical Center in Brick Township on Nov. 1, and promptly saw 40 patients in the first 24 hours of operations. Seventeen emergency physicians, nurses and operations employees traveled to Ocean County to man the MSED. In total, the MSED has served 143 patients, and will remain at Ocean Medical Center through Wednesday's anticipated Nor'easter.

The same MSED – one of four semi-trailers at Hackensack UMC's disposal – was deployed to Hillsborough before Hurricane Sandy reached New Jersey. The team there delivered a baby as the storm was in full force. An additional setup was put together at the Hackensack hospital in order to serve as a holding place for people without power who needed oxygen or medicine, or those waiting to be checked in as inpatients.

Bob Garrett, president and CEO of Hackensack University Health Network, said he received a call from the state Office of Emergency Management to deploy the units to areas traditionally hit hard by hurricanes, and by Nov. 1 was prepared to shift the unit to the shore. The Hackensack Network also went into action regionally when affiliated hospital Palisades Medical Center needed to evacuate more than 60 patients.

The MSED program is financed through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and the state, and if needed, can be assembled into a mobile acute hospital with an operating room, an ICU and two seven-bed emergency departments. The MSED has been at Hackensack for five years.

Garrett said when the Department of Defense approached Hackensack about acquiring mobile care units after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he knew the asset would belong to the region, not just to Hackensack UMC.

Construction leader and Hackensack supporter Joseph Sanzari donated his construction vehicle's fuel supply to Hackensack's paramedic vehicles, and fellow North Jersey business leaders followed suit, with gas station owners donating thousands of gallons of gas and establishing priority lines for Hackensack's employees and physicians.

Garrett said he hopes the goodwill throughout Bergen County, New Jersey and the Northeast region will remind people that Hackensack UMC is able to be called upon, and has assets to deal with many critical situations.

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