Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

N.J. Hospitals Provide Safe Havens for Unwanted Babies and Desperate Parents

There’s a safe alternative for overwhelmed parents who feel like they can’t take care of their newborn. It’s the Safe Haven program, a state-led initiative in which parents can safely surrender a baby at a hospital emergency room or police station.

The state Department of Children and Families recently announced a multi-pronged campaign to promote the Safe Haven program and make struggling parents aware that there are options available.

Under the state's Safe Haven Infant Protection Act, an individual can give up an unwanted baby safely, legally and anonymously as long as the child is unharmed. The law allows parents - or someone acting on their behalf – to legally and anonymously surrender an unwanted infant under 30 days old to any hospital emergency department or police station in New Jersey. Parents will be safe from prosecution if the baby has not been abused.

Sixty-two infants have been safely surrendered since the Safe Haven program was launched in August 2000, according to state officials.

New Jersey's hospital emergency departments are safety nets for the communities they serve. Usually that means providing care to the uninsured or others in need. And sometimes it means providing a safe place for the most vulnerable and peace of mind for desperate parents who feel like they have no other options.

For more information on New Jersey’s Safe Haven program, visit the DCF website at www.njsafehaven.org

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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National Hospital Week: One Patient's Story

This week is National Hospital Week, and I have a very personal reason to celebrate.  A New Jersey hospital recently saved my life. Back in April, after a weekend of stomach pain that turned from very bad to unbearable, my husband drove me to our local hospital emergency department. I was quickly seen by a triage nurse and sent back immediately to the emergency room for an examination and tests. The diagnosis: a ruptured appendix that had spewed toxins throughout my body. I was rushed to the operating room at 1 a.m. and infused with antibiotics to help my body fight the toxins.

It was an experience you never anticipate ahead of time, but when it came for me and my family, we were so grateful to have quick access to round-the-clock hospital care. My physicians, nurses and patient technicians were terrific caregivers. It took my body a long time to fight back and get healthy -- nearly two weeks, in fact, before I was well enough to be discharged. But my caregivers were there at all hours, monitoring my status, administering medications and explaining to me and my large family what was happening. I was so sick I didn't realize the severity of the situation, but my body began to respond with the help of excellent care and strong meds. I thank all of the healthcare professionals who cared for me -- and all of the dedicated caregivers around the state who help patients like me. These compassionate individuals work just as hard at 3 a.m. as they do at 3 p.m., and on weekends and holidays as well.

This Hospital Week, I urge you to thank someone who works at your local hospital. You never know when you might need them.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Being Blogged

I must confess that blogging about healthcare issues (and occasionally other things) can be fun. But nothing beats having the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services blogging about something good your own organization is doing. This past Tuesday (in between snowstorms) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Jersey City and met with Mayor Steve Fulop and a Navy veteran named Hilda De’Mello, who NJHA recently hired and trained as a certified application counselor to assist people in enrolling for health insurance coverage. NJHA hired a total of 25 veterans for this important work in a program made possible through a one-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Jersey Health Initiatives. It’s a great partnership. We’ve been able to hire 25 people who have already served their country, to serve it yet again in a different capacity – enrolling people in ObamaCare. 

You can read HHS’ post here. We thank Secretary Sebelius and her team for blogging about Hilda and our efforts to directly enroll people through the Health Insurance Marketplace. One thing the blog didn’t include was that Hilda was surprised to be called up to speak to reporters and others who had gathered for the event. But you’d never know it – she was composed, articulate and did a great job. (Go Navy!) Thanks Hilda, and thank you to Secretary Sebelius for sharing our program with readers across the nation. Thanks also to Mayor Fulop for his efforts to have multilingual college students reach out to the diverse population of Jersey City to urge them to obtain enrollment.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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A Labor Day Salute to Healthcare Workers, Providing Care 24/7/365

Happy Labor Day! Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and specifically honors the legacy and ongoing work of the nation’s labor unions. It’s an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country. And it’s the perfect opportunity to salute New Jersey’s healthcare workers who are on the front lines taking care of New Jersey 24/7/365.

New Jersey hospitals employ about 140,000 individuals. Thousands more across our state are employed by nursing homes, home health agencies, rehabilitation facilities and other healthcare sites. All told, the healthcare sector is the second-largest source of jobs in the Garden State. Their contributions to New Jersey’s economy are essential to our state’s economic well-being. Those 140,000 hospital jobs bring with them $8 billion in annual salaries and $400 million in state income taxes.

But the added value of healthcare workers’ care, compassion and commitment is immeasurable. Those dedicated individuals serve more than 18 million hospital patients each year, including 3.7 million people who come to hospital emergency rooms in dire need of help. They will be there for you this holiday weekend, as they are every day of the year.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Sen. Lautenberg, a Supporter of Healthcare Providers and Their Patients

We at NJHA mourn the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg.  He has been a devoted public servant to our state and is our longest serving senator in New Jersey history. He is also the last World War II veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate.  Sen. Lautenberg was always a supporter of New Jersey healthcare providers and the patients they serve and was always willing to hear our concerns over his many years of service as an elected official. He championed many consumer health issues, including efforts to forbid smoking in public places such as airplanes and even the U.S. Senate complex. He also was an ardent supporter and protector of prescription drug benefits for New Jersey seniors and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which led to the NJ FamilyCare program. We will miss his stellar leadership, and we extend our condolences to his family, friends and his staff.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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