November 19, 2020
Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive health network, is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a $12 million grant from the New Jersey Department of Health that will expand the network’s testing capacity for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The funds will support Hackensack Meridian Health as it collaborates with the New Jersey Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control to further improve data-driven public health decision-making for local communities, the state, and the nation.
“We are grateful to the New Jersey Department of Health for this significant grant which will help Hackensack Meridian Health continue to innovate care delivery during this global pandemic,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “The network has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in New Jersey and has treated more than 16,000 patients and continues to support the development of groundbreaking therapies and a COVID vaccine. We look forward to our continued partnership with the New Jersey Department of Health.”
The network created New Jersey’s first commercial COVID test, which launched a week after the first patient was hospitalized in the state at Hackensack University Medical Center in early March. The test reduced the wait time from several days to hours, a crucial breakthrough that helped physicians better manage emergency department volume and cohort positive patients sooner to prevent spread of the virus.
The grant will benefit the network’s efforts to expand COVID-19 testing by supporting the purchase of rapid and non-rapid testing platforms and materials that detect current infection and the presence of antibodies. The addition of these platforms could theoretically triple Hackensack Meridian Health‘s weekly testing capacity, which had already expanded remarkably in the first wave of COVID-19.
To date, Hackensack Meridian Health has conducted more than 200,000 COVID-19 tests and continues to perform tests in its hospitals, long-term care facilities, and community testing sites. The grant will also enable the network to continue to expand serving local communities with a specific goal of reaching underserved populations that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
“This generous grant from the New Jersey Department of Health is vital as we continue to battle COVID-19 in our great state,” said Daniel W. Varga, M.D., chief physician executive, Hackensack Meridian Health. “These critical funds will allow us to keep reaching our communities, especially those that are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. We are incredibly grateful to the New Jersey Department of Health for their support of Hackensack Meridian Health and our contribution to patient care and research, especially during these unprecedented times.”
In addition to the integration of these diverse platforms, the expansion of testing will be achieved by the development of additional capacity through the pooling of tests and growing the existing serology studies at Hackensack Meridian Health. This crucial funding comes at a critical time when positive COVID-19 cases are on the rise again throughout the state.
The funds also allow for the strengthening and upgrading of the existing hospital laboratory system’s resources for infectious disease testing. The new testing equipment will be able to detect COVID-19 infection, as well as other infectious diseases like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus.