SUMMIT, NJ – Overlook Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, was the only New Jersey hospital to be named on the 2019 list of 100 Great Community Hospitals released this week by Becker’s Healthcare, a leading source of cutting-edge business and legal information for healthcare industry leaders.
This marks the second consecutive time that Overlook has been named to the list by the publisher, which includes Becker’s Hospital Review and other publications.
“Our goal at Overlook is to make a difference in people’s lives. This drives everything we do,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical Center. “By providing access to world-class health care services within the hospital, taking our expertise directly into our communities, supporting future health care providers and workers in our region, or simply preserving the environment, we’re making that difference every day by building healthier communities.”
The 504-bed hospital is a leading provider of unique specialty services in the area, including neuroscience, digestive diseases such as interventional gastroenterology, and specialized centers such as the Institute for Rheumatology and Autoimmune Diseases and Pediatric Eating Disorders Center.
Overlook’s clinical excellence has been recognized nationally by Healthgrades and the American College of Surgeons, and regionally by U.S. News & World Report. Earlier this year, it was named by Newsweek as one of the “World’s Best Hospitals” in the publication’s inaugural list.
The accomplishments outside the hospital walls, directly within the communities it serves, set Overlook Medical Center, a regional leader in tertiary care, apart from its peers in New Jersey.
In 2018, Overlook’s Community Health department educated 27,000 people, including 3,700 health screenings, throughout the region. Overlook operates the "Healthy Avenues Van," a mobile unit that serves 21 towns in Union County, providing screenings and education.
As part of the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network, Overlook funded the creation of the Vauxhall Community Garden in the Township of Union in April 2018. The garden will provide fresh fruits and vegetable to the community for free, as well as to food pantries.
Overlook also supported the Summit Park Line, a community project which seeks to build a pedestrian linear park running through Summit, in front of part of Overlook in 2018.
Overlook’s nationally recognized achievements in environmental sustainability are driven by the belief that the journey to better health begins by improving the environment that affects the entire community.
This year, Overlook began repurposing surgical blue wrap, made of polypropylene, which is lightweight and durable but also incredibly non-biodegradable, into handy tote bags. Blue wrap accounts for thousands of pounds of waste at Overlook alone.
Overlook is now piloting the bags as a replacement for plastic patient belonging bags, which is expected to eliminate 100,000 plastic bags and save $30,000 a year. The hospital is also selling them in the gift shop, and is also planning to repurpose some of the blue wrap for other uses, such as sleeping bags and ponchos for local homeless populations. This has also led Overlook’s parent organization, Atlantic Health System, to begin a wide-scale effort to repurpose blue wrap throughout its sites.
Overlook was an early installer of an electric refueling station in Overlook’s east parking garage, giving patients and visitors with electric/hybrid vehicles a place to re-energize their cars.
Overlook implemented a tri-generation power plant, which harnesses the waste heat produced by its generators, reducing energy needs and allowing the hospital to operate independent of grid-supplied power. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, while much of the surrounding community had lost power, Overlook remained up and running, serving community needs.
The hospital’s rooftop beehives, which produce fresh, local honey and beeswax, and the hospital’s community gardens, located just down the road from the hospital, are used for educational programs for local schools and organizations each year. The “Bee Healthy” program educates local children about nutrition, with programs hosted at the gardens and at local schools.
In addition, the community gardens include handicap garden beds and regular beds that are available to lower income families at a reduced cost.
Overlook also funded the renovation of a local, multi-unit chicken coop and purchased 32 chickens, producing eggs for sale to staff and the community. Much of the proceeds from the garden and the chickens are donated to families in need. These sustainability achievements were recognized by Becker’s in its 2018 list of “The greenest hospitals in America.”
Catering to the health needs of the community has also guided Overlook’s growth and infrastructure over the years. Since establishing a satellite emergency department in 2007 in the former Union Hospital, in neighboring Union Township, Overlook has grown throughout the facility, adding services such as primary care, oncology and infusion, physical therapy and rehabilitation and imaging, to create a convenient location serving that community’s health needs.
In Summit, Overlook took on the challenge of providing access to behavioral health services in its communities, renovating a new, larger space on Walnut Street, just down the road from the main hospital, for Atlantic Behavioral Health at Overlook Medical Center’s outpatient offices. The new, two-story commercial building, measuring 5,000 square feet, not only included more space, but a more adaptable facility in which to provide these services, which served about 900 individuals in 2018.
Beyond infrastructure, the hospital has also served as a setting to help prepare young people to improve their skills to enter the work force. It has served for the last three years as pilot employer host of Project SEARCH, a program that helps young adults with disabilities in the Union County community to gain on-the-job experience.
The program and Overlook have been recognized by several organizations for this initiative, which has led to employment for many of these young people. The success of the program at Overlook led other companies to host interns, and this program is being adopted by Atlantic Health’s Newton Medical Center starting in September.
Also this year, Overlook marked the 10th year of the Overlook Summer Internship Program, in which 17 pre-med college students spend the month of June in an in-depth, four-week program designed to expose undergraduate college students to the field of healthcare, through close-up, real-time observation of clinicians in a wide range of specialties at Overlook. The program has attracted students from colleges and universities throughout the nation, from state colleges to Ivy League schools, many of whom have become today’s health care providers.
Becker’s "100 great community hospitals 2019" list includes independent community hospitals as well as facilities affiliated with large health systems. Some hospitals serve expansive rural geographies, while others care for small communities outside of large cities.
The hospitals continue to grow in many communities, opening new departments and sites to improve access to care. The full list can be found HERE.