Jersey City Medical Worth the Wait

First Phase of Medical Center Completed

The construction of a new medical center is welcome news to the Jersey City community. Jersey City, N.J., has changed. Located in Hudson County and within sight of the majestic Statute of Liberty, it has grown and redeveloped—gentrified if you will. These days, the area is often referred to as “Wall Street West,” or the “sixth” borough of New York, stemming from its newfound popularity.

It is here that the community will soon celebrate the opening of the Jersey City Medical Center, an acute-care hospital campus and anchor to the redevelopment area known as Liberty North.

Backed by parent LibertyHealth, the plan has finally come to fruition, but only after a major detour. Plans for the medical center were on the drawing board for nearly 20 years, with the new hospital first planned in 1983. In 1988, The Medical Center was privatized and managed by an independent voluntary board of trustees, who paved the way for the project to be approved in 1987 by the State Department of Health.

Medical center history

The original 70-year-old medical center was hampered by its antiquated physical plant that had become costly to operate and could no longer meet contemporary healthcare demands. A feasibility study found that constructing a replacement facility in a different location would be more cost-effective than rebuilding and maintaining the current structure. The project is funded by $200 million in tax-exempt bonds issued through the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority. All phases of the fixtracking project are scheduled for completion in 2004.

The new campus at LibertyHealth Plaza sits on about 14 acres and when completed, will consist of a 360,000-square-foot, seven-story hospital; a 42,000-square-foot, three-level Ambulatory Care Center (ACC)/outpatient facility; Physician Care Center and administrative offices; and a 250-car parking structure.

The first phase of the massive new construction project came to a close with the completion of the ACC, with staff moving in early in April2003. Construction on the hospital is ongoing, with the work expected to be completed by December 2003 and a planned early 2004 move-in date. Construction on the physician’s office building will commence this summer.

“The new hospital is a major addition to the region’s infrastructure, supporting the area’s continued development, and giving Jersey City and Hudson County access to a first-class, Critical Care Hospital,” said Bill Dauster, Senior Vice President, Development & Public Affairs, LibertyHealth.

The hospital will be in a central location, which makes it extremely accessible. A New Jersey Transit Light Rail Station has been constructed adjacent to the site to accommodate patient and staff transportation needs, and it is also located near other area transportation arteries in New Jersey and New York.

Dauster said that the Jersey City Medical Center holds many prestigious titles: it is a regional trauma center, perinatal center and children’s hospital. In addition, it is a teaching affiliate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The facility will also provide space for a “Heart Center,” for the medical center’s new open-heart surgery program.

VDV ‘nuts and bolts’

The construction project team consists of many players, including Gilbane Construction Co., Providence, R.I.; the campus construction manager; and RBSD/Ballinger, New York/Philadelphia, architects/engineers. The project also was supported by the following consultants: French & Parrello Civil Engineering; MKW Landscape Architects; Mitchell Associates Equipment Planners; Van Deusen & Associates Elevator Design; Romano Gatland Food Service; and Shen/Milson & Wilke Acoustical Consultants.

The integrated systems portion of the construction will tag in at about $10 million, and include the latest hardware, software and other equipment, including a sophisticated infant monitoring system, networked fiber optic transmission systems, color video surveillance cameras and digital video recording and retrieval systems.

Camera surveillance provides comprehensive coverage throughout the facility, inside and outside the perimeter, and can be remotely accessed via computer or at central control, said Ron Hamman, corporate director of Telecommunications for LibertyHealth. Hamman is overseeing the communications and other systems installations.

The head end control equipment will eventually be installed at the Jersey City Medical Center when construction permits. However, because the medical center is still under construction, an intermediate central control has been established at the Ambulatory Care Center.

“We’ll be able to review, control and record from the central command post,” Hamman continued. “Currently, there are three Intermediate Distribution Centers, but these will eventually be linked to the Main Distribution Center at the hospital after that portion is complete,” he said.

Short and long-term planning

Lead contractor on the integrated systems installation is Engineered Security Systems Inc., (ESSI) based in Towaco, N.J. ESSI provided the design, engineering and the bid specification for the card access, video surveillance, infant protection monitoring and asset tracking systems in an integrated systems solution package. ESSI, established in 1971, is a veteran systems integrator, and is among the remaining independent elite Underwriters Laboratories-listed central station monitoring companies that provide facility supervision of access control, burglary and fire alarm signals. In this case, ESSI will not provide fire, intrusion or access control monitoring, but will install both intermediary and primary central command posts for the hospital campus.

“This is the first hospital to be built in the state of New Jersey in more than 30 years, so everyone’s excited,” says David George, president of ESSI. “We’re even more excited to have been instrumental in the design, engineering and now the deployment of this state-of-the-art integrated system,” he said.

Part of the success in bidding the job was thorough design, engineering and planning upfront. “We had the best design package to offer the customer,” George said, “in a turnkey solution.”

One of the medical center’s priorities is the ability to tie in and remotely access multiple locations, some part of the campus and others off-site, says Jeff Rotunno, Northeast Regional Sales Manager for ESSI.

The ACC is the smaller part of the project and the major portion of the job will come when it is time to bring the medical center on line and transfer control to the central command center in the campus’s main building.

ESSI subcontracted portions of the system installation to Morgan Electric Inc., an electrical contractor based in Pine Brook, N.J. Morgan Electric also operates the Morgan DataCom division, which provides full-service wire, data, video imaging and cabling services. According to Lou Weiss, Executive Vice President, Morgan Electric, the firm’s electricians and datacom technicians installed the card access, surveillance cameras and infant monitoring and tracking system.

“Electrical contractors need to reinvent themselves to be able to work with all sorts of trades and vendor’s in today’s marketplace,” Weiss said. “We don’t just pull cable anymore. Power can be judged as low voltage, as well as medium and high. Coordination is the key element in working with other trades,” he added.

Weiss says that the project has been rewarding, but it has presented challenges, which were easily overcome by constant communication between all parties.

“The hospital was looking for the latest technology, and waited until the Ambulatory Care Center was nearly complete before they contracted the work to ESSI. The challenge was to try to work within the 90-percent completed building without damaging any of the finishes, yet still get our work done in a timely manner,” he said.

Accnet Solutions Inc. of Boston specified the fiber optic network, which was installed by Forte Communications Group, Bergenfield, N.J.

RBSD/Ballinger, a joint-venture partnership, designed the project. RBSD of New York City is the architect of record and interior designer. Ballinger is the healthcare planner, exterior design architect and engineer of record for structural, HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, building automation systems and electrical engineering.

“The planning and design of the project evolved over 18 years,” according to Clare M. Cerniglia, associate electrical design engineer for Ballinger. “This presented our team with two significant challenges. The first was the continual change in project scope and design as the project evolved over a very long time and the constant impact these changes had on the security system design. Second was the fact that 18 years is a lifetime relative to the technological advancements of security systems during that time span. Our team was required to stay current with a number of security system technology generations and integrate them into the project design,” she said.

“A unique criterion of the project was to allow for the Ambulatory Care Center and the Jersey City Medical to be stand alone, but also allow for the security system at the ACC to be monitored at the Jersey City Medical Center. This was accomplished through multimode, single-strand fiber connections between the buildings.”

And again, the success, according to Cerniglia and others, came from all parties—the design team, the construction manager and the subcontractors who worked as a team to support each other, share expertise and communicate regularly to make informed decisions with the end-user’s best interests in mind.

O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Park Ridge, Ill., specializing in low-voltage. She can be reached at 847.384.1916 or


About the Author

Deborah L. O'Mara

Freelance Writer
Deborah L. O’Mara is a journalist with more than two decades experience writing about security, life safety and systems integration, and she is the managing director of DLO Communications in Chicago. She can be reached at

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