A major expansion of the community medical center will begin in the coming months but will ultimately span two decades, hospital officials told members of the Toms River Township planning board Wednesday night.
The council approved a development permit to modify the hospital’s facilities master plan, thereby approving the elements of the plan moving forward. As work is proposed, it will need to be presented to council for approval, but the master plan represents a phased approach to implementing an expansion and redesign of the complex.
Community Medical Center Expansion Highlights
- An increase in the total size of the campus from 38.1 acres to 41.5 acres by subsuming a neighboring lot.
- An increase in the size of the hospital from 711,897 square feet to 1,053,327 square feet.
- Demolition of the current parking lot of 146,500 square feet and construction of a new garage of 171,000 square feet.
- An increase in the number of parking spaces across campus from 1,456 to 1,759.
- Construction of a 48,000 square foot power plant.
The first phase of the works, which should be offered as soon as possible, is the construction of a new car park and the demolition of the existing facility.
“It would be located on what is now a surface parking lot,” said Christopher Cirrotti, the project engineer. “The current garage will be removed after the new garage is built, and this would allow the parking lot to move from one garage to another.”
Cirrotti said the parking deck will hold more than 600 spaces on six levels. The first phase of the expansion project also includes the construction of a central utility plant.
The second phase will include major renovations to the hospital itself, as RWJ Barnabas Health, the owner of the hospital, begins its medical residency program. The program will expand over several years to train a staff of 117 new physicians working as residents at Community, transforming the hospital into a teaching facility and increasing the number of physicians on staff. Once the program is fully implemented, it is expected that 117 residents will be an integral part of the program.
The physical renovations that will be proposed will house the new program while providing more space as technology evolves, Cirrotti said. This phase will add 340,000 square feet of new hospital space, new surgical areas, procedure rooms, patient rooms, new reception area and a new cafeteria. The number of approved beds will remain the same, with 592 beds.
Patient rooms will be one of the main aspects of the third phase of the works, which is expected to be “stretched”, Cirrotti said.
“It consists of renovations, upgrades and reconfiguration of the medical center,” he explained. “It’s about a 50% increase, and a lot of it is code-based.”
Paul Phillips, a planner representing the hospital, said the residency program and an overall change in the way medical care is delivered will lead to the building expanding. One of the main purposes of the expansion is to accommodate most patients in private rooms.
“Modern healthcare standards require a lot more space, more equipment and the privatization of rooms,” he said.
The final phase of the project will also include a new main entrance to the hospital, which will be located at the entrance to the newly constructed addition.
“It will also give the hospital the ability to use the old lobby for exit purposes, which will spread out services and be more efficient,” Phillips said.
Hospital officials said the plan will eventually include more green space in front of the hospital, facing Route 37.
“It will be a place of respite, with gardens, maybe rain gardens,” he said. “And we will work with DOT on driveway locations.”
Hospital lawyer Peter Carton confirmed that the plan would likely take a total of 20 years to implement, with phased works being officially proposed along the way.
“Based on what’s happening in the world and in healthcare in general, we think that’s about how long it will take to roll out,” Carton said.
Phillips said he and his team met with police and firefighters and both approved of the plan. The township’s current fire equipment is sufficient, he said, and the facility is otherwise “self-contained” in terms of utilities, security and other services that would normally be provided by the municipality. .
“We don’t anticipate demand on utilities or services,” he said.