Philadelphia News & Search
Virtua Health’s proposal to build a $1 billion hospital complex in Westampton was scrutinized Monday night by the New Jersey State Health Planning Board Monday night before residents who offered different views on the project.
Several raised concerns about pollution and increased traffic, while others said the project – which includes a nine-story hospital that will replace Virtua’s four-story hospital in Mount Holly – would bring economic growth to the area in Burlington County and thousands of new jobs.
The board convened the meeting at the Hilton Garden in Westampton to decide whether the project is needed. A vote on whether the board should issue a certificate of need is expected to be taken April 13 in Trenton.
Virtua Health executives James Rivard and Matthew Zuino gave a brief presentation on the scope of the project to the about 75 people attending.
“It would cost almost as much to renovate the Mount Holly hospital as it would to design and build an entirely new hospital from the ground up,” Rivard said.
Rivard said one of the major upgrades would be that all patients would have private rooms. He said there would be 339 beds when the hospital is completed, projected for 2022.
All but two of the 10 residents who spoke at the hearing supported the project, though several encouraged Virtua to address concerns about potential new traffic congestion.
Westampton Mayor Andre Daniels said he believes the campus will “bring a boon” to the town. He said a new hospital and upgraded infrastructure are needed in the area.
But Bob Davies, a longtime resident, said the plan was “half-baked” and lacked a traffic study.
Rivard said that will be done later in the process, which is in the early stages.
John Anderson, a Westampton resident and advocate for a national water trail designation for the nearby Rancocas Creek, has opposed the hospital project and threatened to file a court challenge. In a letter he sent to Mayor Daniels and released to reporters Monday morning, he warned that the project will pollute the town.
“I for one am not seduced by a promise of a Billion Dollar baby in Westampton,” he wrote. “Do not forget about traffic congestion … The permanent destruction about Westampton’s quality of life.”
There are no major changes in the plan since it was unveiled at a town meeting in Westampton in August 2015, according to Peggy Leone, a spokeswoman for Marlton-based Virtua Health. She declined to provide a copy of the new plan before the meeting, saying they could be reviewed by the public at the Burlington County and New Jersey State Libraries, or at the offices of the Health Department.
Virtua representatives say the new hospital would replace the existing hospital in Mount Holly, three miles away. That hospital was built in 1956, and officials said that despite several renovation projects and additions, it is becoming outdated.
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