Despite move, hospital UMCPP continues services from Plainsboro
The old hospital, the University Medical Center of Princeton, used to be housed at Witherspoon Street, less than one mile north of the University campus. The new hospital, now known as the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, is located off of Route 1 in Plainsboro, 2.4 miles from Frist Campus Center.
The hospital will continue to provide sexual assault forensic investigations, known as rape kits, for sexual assaults that occur on campus, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua explained. The University renegotiated this arrangement with UMCPP because the new hospital location is in Middlesex County, which is under the jurisdiction of a different police department and prosecutor’s office than the old hospital was.
Middlesex County will provide and fund the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner who cares for the victim at the hospital, while the Mercer County organization Womanspace will continue to provide victims with advocacy services.
Transportation to the new hospital remains uninterrupted. Members of the University community are advised to take local ambulance services to the hospital in the event of a medical emergency. Public Safety will continue to provide students with transportation to the hospital for nonemergencies, Mbugua explained. The University’s TigerTransit shuttle has also added a stop at the hospital to its Forrestal/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory route.
New Jersey Transit launched a new bus line — #655 — in May, running from downtown Princeton to the hospital on weekdays. The University is one of several organizations that are providing financial support for the new line in order to provide community transportation to the new hospital.
The hospital moved to the new location to be closer to much of the population it serves, which comes mainly from the surrounding area. Its new state-of-the-art facility, with construction costs topping $500 million, has been ranked as one of the best hospitals in the United States.
The hospital previously dwelled on the borders of the Borough and Township. To help ease the transition for the residents of that neighborhood who relied on the hospital, there is still a laboratory in the old location where patients can have blood work done and receive free bus tickets to UMCPP.
Maria Conde, a nurse who works in the laboratory at the Witherspoon location, said she treats about 12 to 20 people per day. She also said that about four or five local residents come in for free bus tickets to the new location per week.
Isabel Barrera, a Guatemalan man who has lived in the Witherspoon neighborhood for 12 years, said that he comes to the information center regularly to get bus tickets to the hospital. He travels to the hospital every Tuesday for shots. He travels to a clinic in Morristown once a week for dialysis, as the UMCPP hospital only provides it to inpatients.
“It’s not too bad. It’s not too far,” Barrera said in Spanish, translated by Conde. Barrera added that the distance would be a problem for him if he weren’t receiving the free bus tickets. He said that the new hospital was very elegant-looking and that its employees were very nice.
Some members of the local community have begun looking into the possibility of creating a local clinic in the Witherspoon area to provide medical services to the area’s residents.
When the hospital made the initial decision to move, the Princeton community formed a task force to study the potential need for a local clinic. The task force created the existing transportation arrangement, by which the hospital provides free bus transportation to local residents, according to UMCPP Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Pamela Hersh.
When the UMCPP decided to move to the Plainsboro location, the state planning board decided not to require the UMCPP to create a clinic in Princeton. Health Interested Teens Own Program on Sexuality, a nonprofit organization in Princeton that promotes adolescents’ health and well-being, is continuing to study the potential demand for a clinic in the Witherspoon neighborhood.
HiTOPS is currently collecting data on the usage of the existing services at Witherspoon location and the usage of the bus lines to the hospital and has presented some of its preliminary data to the Princeton Regional Health Department. Borough and Township Health Officer David Henry said that about 200 people use the buses each week.
The Health Commission will be receiving frequent updates of this data and will consider data from both HiTOPS and from UMCPP, Henry explained. If the data indicates that there is a need for a local clinic in the Witherspoon neighborhood, then the Health Commission may consider requesting that the UMCPP establish one.
“It’s too early to tell at this moment what our specific goal is,” Henry said of the study. “We’re just trying to find out if the public health needs are being met or if there are any gaps anywhere.”
In recent months, the redevelopment of the hospital’s former site has become controversial with local activists. Community activists have spoken out against the developer that the hospital has chosen to redevelop the site, a developer of luxury apartment communities known as AvalonBay.
AvalonBay offered the highest bid for the site, at $36 million. A community activist organization, Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods, formed earlier this year to oppose the planned AvalonBay development on grounds that it does not comply with Borough code regulations and the community master plan.
Alexi Assmus, a founder and trustee of Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods, said the planned AvalonBay development was a “private gated community.” Assmus also charges that AvalonBay has misrepresented the potential need to decontaminate the current site and the risks of the contamination at the site.