Mayor’s Message: The story behind Inspira Hospital

In this week's Mayor's Message, Mayor Louis Manzo takes us back to when building Inspira Hospital in Mullica Hill was barely a possibility.

There’s a rumor that a new hospital is opening in Mullica Hill. That was the scuttlebutt in the summer of 2015 as the speculation grew about Inspira’s plans for the future. That all ended in September when Inspira officially announced their intention to purchase a 100 acre parcel from Rowan University at the Rt. 322 and 55 interchange. The rumors were true and for the few of us from the Harrison Township leadership team engaged in that process, months of meetings and negotiations had culminated in the dream becoming a reality…..and we could finally talk about it, LOL. The beginning of 2016 saw the consummation of the land purchase from Rowan University, which lead to the groundbreaking in May of 2017.

Since that time, we have witnessed the raising of the new hospital building on the southeast corner of the interchange, that includes the separate (but connected) Cancer Center. Now we are less than two months away from the hospital’s opening, slated for November 17 followed by the Cancer Center ribbon-cutting in early 2020. Amazing that it’s been a four-year saga.

I remember sitting in a Rowan conference room, in mid-2015, with a small group that included university President Ali Houshmand and Inspira CEO John DiAngelo for that initial “exploratory” discussion. Listening to these two gentlemen talk about the potential synergies that existed between their organizations was incredible. I recall leaving that meeting with my Harrison Township associate, who attended the meeting with me, and saying, “is this really a possibility?”

We all knew that a project of this magnitude would require multiple layers of cooperation, which often impedes progress. Mr. DiAngelo of Inspira and Dr. Houshmand of Rowan have their individual Boards to answer to. Approval from the NJ Department of Health was required and coordination/support from County leadership was imperative, considering the infrastructure needs for the site. Our local legislative representatives would also need to be involved and the future of Inspria’s Woodbury hospital location was a major consideration. The complexity of the path forward was monumental. Hence, the immediate answer to my question leaving that initial meeting was “maybe”, at best.

In hindsight, this project could have come off the rails numerous times. But the commitment to “make it happen” outweighed any roadblocks that emerged. A special thanks is due to the Senate President Steve Sweeney, who consistently counseled the players to keep things on track, and to the County Freeholder team for their support. Their directives to the county administrative leadership, headed up by Chad Bruner and the County Engineering Department, led by Vince Voltaggio, made the vision of this project a reality.

The result: A 465,000 square foot, state-of-the-art medical center with 210 private rooms and 1400 employees; not to mention the 400 construction jobs created for the $400 million project. This is a game-changer for our hometown and the entire region on several levels, including the collaborative potential of a major university with two medical schools and a brand new, high-tech hospital. Most importantly, the quality of healthcare in South Jersey has been greatly enhanced and we are proud that our community is home to it.