NEWARK, NJ — The city’s elected officials are holding nothing back this week as a deal to consolidate Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJUH) in New Brunswick moves forward.
Following Mayor Ras Baraka’s scathing NJ.com op-ed on Tuesday, city council members motioned to send letters to every board member at NJMS and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJUH) condemning what officials are calling a “takeover” of the Newark community’s resources.
The deal would make two medical schools one entity between the Rutgers-New Brunswick and Rutgers-Newark campuses, which critics say would harm NJMS’s ability to serve the Newark community. Council members raised concerns regarding Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom’s position on both the boards of University Hospital and RWJUH.
“There are obvious conflicts of interest when people who sit on University Hospital's board of trustees sit on Rutgers Medical School’s board,” Central Ward Councilmember LaMonica McIver said.
The merger is Strom’s vision —Council President Mildred Crump called him “determined” to make the merger happen on Wednesday. The city fears consolidation of the two schools would see a loss of services, hospital staff, programs and other vital resources at a time when Newark needs them most.
Tensions between Newark and Rutgers date back to the 1960s, when the construction of the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry displaced low-income community members. As a result, the 1968 Newark Accord established Newark City Hospital, now University Hospital, and required NJMS to operate it, provide community health services and offer programs.
Crump said Rutgers’ pattern of “disrespect” over the years can no longer be tolerated, citing the exodus of a cancer center and other resources.
“I’m not opposed to a merger, but you have to merge with Newark. You cannot take another resource out of the city of Newark and give it to a suburban community,” she said. “They have disrespected us since the 1960s, they stole our land and bulldozed our homes. They did what they wanted to do and got away with it.”
Both RWJUH and University Hospital did not respond to comment. Neil Buccino, Associate Director of Public and Media Relations for Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, attributed the conflict between Newark and Rutgers to a misunderstanding on Newark’s part.
“While we understand the mayor’s passion, we believe that he has not been fully informed of the benefits of consolidating the medical schools in Newark,” he said. We look forward to discussing those benefits and our commitment to further improving the quality of health care in Newark with him.”