(Editor's note: This report was updated at noon Thursday with comments from U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr.)
A new federally qualified health center opened in Newark in place of a medical center which was shut down in 2008.
The closing of St. James Hospital left a gap in health care, and residents were forced to forgo doctor visits or rely on emergency room visits.
But $600,000 in funding was awarded through the Affordable Care Act, and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez were credited for pleading the case of needed health care in Newark’s largest Latino community.
"This is a good day for the residents of the East Ward of Newark,” said U.S. Rep. Albio Sires. “For the first time in nearly a decade since St. James Hospital closed, we are returning access to affordable, high-quality health care to the Ironbound. That is why I am so proud to have worked with local, county, state and federal elected officials to finally see this project come to its completion.”
The multilingual staff at St. James will provide primary, OB/GYN, pediatric and internal medicine care, as well as help patients navigate the insurance and Medicare and Medicaid landscape.
“Investments in our community health centers — like St. James — are exactly the kind of investments we must make if we want all of our communities and families to prosper,” Menendez said.
They anticipate at least 4,000 patients this year, and will operate five days a week with extended weekend and evening hours in the spring.
“Communities like Newark face incredible barriers to adequate health care, such as transportation, language, and inadequate access to information,” Booker said. “This new federally qualified health center will help address these health inequities by bringing critical, high-quality health care services into the community. I was proud to have worked closely with HHS to bring nearly $3.7 million in federal funding to New Jersey for community health centers, and stand committed to continue strengthening our underserved communities.”
There are currently 15 FQHCs in Newark, including mobile units and primary care centers located at schools.
Nicole Fields, CEO and president, St. James Health, said: “St. James Health was founded in 2014 to fill the gap in primary care left by the closure of St. 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. 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.”
“New Jersey’s community health centers provide thousands of hardworking New Jerseyans with access to quality, comprehensive health care services,” said U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. “Community health centers understand the health needs of their communities, and they tailor services to those needs. St. James Health will allow for the treatment of more underserved New Jerseyans, improving the quality of life in our communities.”