SALEM – The Memorial Hospital of Salem County is gaining a new owner, a new name and new life as Salem Medical Center.
Community Healthcare Associates, a North Jersey-based company, announced its intention to buy the hospital last March. After buying the assets, it transferred the hospital license to an independent nonprofit called Salem County Hospital Corp.
The state health commissioner recently approved the $3 million sale.
The previous owner, Community Health Systems Inc., believed the sale was the only alternative to closing the financially troubled hospital, according to the approval letter by state Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal.
The hospital‘s nonprofit status will strengthen its finances, after suffering “significant operating losses, accumulated net asset deficiency and declining occupancy,” Elnahal wrote.
The new owner expects to open 26 adult psychiatric beds and an 18-bed detox unit by the end of the year.
The health commissioner also approved the applicant’s request to open 30 long-term care beds, which he deemed necessary for the hospital’s survival. A hospital spokesman said those subacute beds will be used for patients recovering from surgery, for example.
Chief Executive Officer Tammy Torres called it a “milestone moment” and welcome news for the hospital and community. In 2017, the state approved the hospital’s sale to another buyer who later backed out of the proposal.
The sale will not affect patient care, services, location, physicians or staff “in any way,” according to a hospital representative. Salem Medical Center will also continue its affiliation with Cooper University Health Care emergency department doctors and hospitalists.
“We now begin a new chapter in our nearly 100-year history of providing health care services to Salem County and surrounding areas,” Torres said a statement.
The hospital’s sale will preserve services for “medically indigent and medically underserved populations” in the area, Elnahal wrote. The county is home to only one other general hospital, Inspira Medical Center – Elmer, about 16 miles away.
The state’s approval included multiple conditions, including quarterly and annual financial reporting requirements for five years and the creation of an advisory board. The new owner or any future owners must also continue to operate Salem Medical Center as a general acute care hospital for 10 years.
Ceil Smith, a hospital board member for 17 years, said the return to a nonprofit status will open new opportunities for Salem Medical Center.
“We are moving in the right direction,” she said in a statement, “and our future today looks brighter than it has in a long, long time.”
A local governing board will help the corporate governing board oversee medical staffing issues, planning and oversight. The hospital is licensed for 114 medical-surgical beds and 12 adult intensive care unit beds.