By Dr. Lashire Diegue
In the coming days, the UMDNJ Advisory Committee will announce its findings concerning the future of medical education in the state. Based on the Committee’s interim recommendation earlier this fall to merge UMDNJ entities located in the New Brunswick/Piscataway area with Rutgers University’s New Brunswick/Piscataway campus , many suspect it will suggest merging the remaining UMDNJ facilities with Rutgers—a major reorganization no matter how it’s configured. But as Committee deliberations enter their final stage, there’s still much we don’t know, including the fate of UMDNJ’s flagship treatment facility, The University Hospital in Newark.
Since 1968, The University Hospital has been a dynamic and positive force in the Newark community. First and foremost, UH provides essential care to families in Newark, and has for generations—and because UH treats patients in need regardless of their insurance status, it’s become a vital part of the safety net for the many residents who live with the destabilizing realities of violence and economic turmoil. UH is also, of course, one of the state’s premier research and educational facilities, helping to advance cures and treatments and train successive classes of top-tier medical professionals. And at the same time, UH and UMDNJ institutions are a vital part of the Newark area’s economic engine, providing good jobs and creating an environment that attracts investment, even in these challenging times.
As a union of frontline care providers, we believe that any shift in UMDNJ’s organization should aim to do what we do: put patients first. That means protecting or improving the quality of service at UH and throughout the State of New Jersey, particularly with respect to patient populations with special needs. And when it comes to UMDNJ’s mission to education the next generation of physicians, we believe that any realignment should seek to bolster the primary care and specialty care that New Jersey residents depend on, and to maintain the level of training for resident physicians, and the conditions in which we work—so that New Jersey can continue to draw high-quality candidates into our health care system.
We’re not advocating for any particular alignment of services, and we recognize that change is inevitable—and likely to promote progress if done correctly. We know that the Committee has many options to weigh, and that reorganizing a system this large and complex is no easy task. The question, as always, is how to move forward in a careful and thoughtful manner towards a result that is best for New Jersey.
We urge the Committee, Governor Christie, and the Legislature to proceed with due consideration, and to take into account the input of the many stakeholders whose lives will be affected. In situations like this—as we in the care-giving profession know well—moving hastily instead of carefully can create more problems than it solves. We hope that won’t happen here, and we expect it will not.
The interns and resident physicians of The University Hospital are committed to doing our part to keep UMDNJ at the forefront of medical care and research. And as we await the Advisory Committee’s report, we trust it will give appropriate weight to the vital role that The University Hospital plays in our community, in the academy, and in northern New Jersey’s economy.
Dr. Lashire Diegue is a Psychiatry Resident at University Hospital, Newark, and a member of the Committee of Interns and Residents.