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Federal Grant Boosts N.J. Hospital Expansion

NEWARK, N.J. -- Registered nurse Sharmine Brassington says she knows about the critical importance of time, patience, compassion and offering quick help to people who find themselves in a hospital emergency room.

Having the proper equipment to address medical needs is equally important, as is the need to expand an emergency room's physical size and private patient care areas, Brassington, the head nurse and clinical coordinator at East Orange General Hospital's Forest A. Brower emergency room, said yesterday.

Thanks to Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), the hospital has received a $608,477 federal grant to help purchase new state-of-the-art equipment, including two new ambulances.

The federal funds, plus another $500,000 hospital officials last year raised on their own, are paving the way to help make future emergency room patients "better, faster and returned to the arms of their families," Brassington told those who attended a midday news conference.

Lautenberg joined Brassington, hospital Chief Executive Officer Kevin Slavin, East Orange Mayor Robert Bowser, and hospital board chairwoman Antoinette Ellis-Williams, yesterday in the newly expanded emergency room.

"Thousands of residents in East Orange and the surrounding communities will benefit from the equipment and new systems that will soon be in place in the hospital," Lautenberg said.

"These improvements will further enhance the quality of care provided at East Orange General Hospital," Lautenberg said of the facility, the largest private and only independent hospital in Essex County. "Patients can now rest assured they will get excellent treatment, at a state-of-the-art local emergency room."

The $500,000 in private money raised through various efforts, including the re-establishment of annual hospital May ball, held in Westminster, allowed the hospital's emergency room to expand from nine to 20 private treatment areas, and for the nurse and doctor's work area to almost double in size, Slavin said.

With the additional federal funding Lautenberg's staff secured, the hospital can now purchase new defibrillators, upgrade its computer and patient monitoring systems, purchase new stretchers and beds, and buy two additional ambulances to add to the 12-ambulance fleet operated by the hospital's Essex Valley Medical Transportation Services subsidiary, Slavin said.

The hospital's emergency room expansion and new emergency room equipment needs are critical, especially in the wake of an increasing demand to address health care to a growing number of people in the region, including those who used to seek health care at the now closed Hospital Center at Orange and the defunct Irvington General Hospital, Slavin said.

Bowser praised Slavin and other hospital officials for pumping new life into the once financially-troubled hospital and Lautenberg for securing the grant. The hospital is one of the city's largest employers, with more than 1,200 workers.

"We're known as the city on the move, and East Orange General Hospital is (now) also known as being on the move," Bowser said.

Some 27,000 people annually visit that hospital's emergency room. Prior to the expansion, patients used to have to wait an average of two hours. Now, the average wait time is less than an hour, hospital officials said.

Slavin said the goal is to cut that time even further, so that every patient coming there gets seen by either a physician or nurse "within 15 minutes."

East Orange General Hospital -- founded in 1903, in Newark, and then relocated to East Orange, in 1926, at Central and South Munn avenues -- underwent major expansions and renovations in both 1970 and in 1992. Today, the hospital has an approximately $105 million annual budget, and it has had successive years of improved Standard and Poors bond ratings.

Kevin C. Dilworth may be reached at kdilworth@starledger.com or (973) 392-4143.

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