Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center Converts Cafeteria into 74-Bed COVID-19 Treatment Unit

April 4, 2020

One of NJ’s largest hospitals takes innovative approach to expand capacity to address surge in cases; NJ reports 2nd largest volume in U.S.

To accommodate the dramatic increase in COVID-19 patients in North Jersey, Hackensack University Medical Center has expanded overall capacity 23 percent by redesigning unused patient care areas, including the cafeteria which opens this weekend as a 74-bed specialized care unit for patients battling the coronavirus.

“We are proud of the innovation underway at Hackensack Meridian Health to adapt rapidly and effectively to this historic global pandemic,’’ said Robert C. Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “This impressive expansion at Hackensack University Medical Center is a model of living our mission to transform health care in order to deliver high-quality care for communities.’’

New Jersey reported 34,124 confirmed cases of coronavirus today. Sadly, the death toll reached 846, Gov. Murphy reported. Bergen County has the most cases in New Jersey at 5,760. Unfortunately, 179 deaths were reported in Bergen County as well.

Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health’s academic flagship, has grown from 771 beds to nearly 950 to accommodate a dramatic increase in patients suffering from serious symptoms of COVID-19 which include high fever and respiratory distress.

“We are committed to serving our communities, especially in this unprecedented pandemic,’’ said Mark Sparta, President and CEO of Hackensack University Medical Center. “Our teams are innovating and adapting so that we can continue to deliver high-quality care our patients expect of us. I am very proud of our team that continues to put our patients first.’’

As part of a rapid-response expansion project, the hospital converted cafeteria space into a 74-bed unit to treat COVID-19 patients in non-intensive care beds.

Additionally, the hospital, which typically operates 48 adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, converted medical surgical units into ICU beds. Facility crews working around the clock have converted unused spaces into intensive care units to expand total capacity to 167 critical care beds, more than triple original capacity.

The New Jersey Department of Health has called on all hospitals in the state to double their critical care beds to meet a goal of 4,000 beds statewide. While 80 percent of patients who have the virus experience mild symptoms, those that require hospital care often need critical care that includes ventilators.

“I am so proud of our front-line teams that continue to put our patients first,’’ Garrett said.

“Equally important, our support teams are doing everything in their power to assist the front line.’’