Bridges will connect the new facility to the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, a RWJBarnabas Health facility, and Rutgers Cancer Institute.
RWJBarnabas Health has been under significant financial stress stemming from the high costs of treating Covid-19 patients, increased spending on personal protective equipment and the suspension of other revenue-generating functions, like elective surgeries, said Chief Executive Barry Ostrowsky.
RWJBarnabas Health is re-evaluating all of its capital projects, and some inevitably will have to be shelved, he said.
“But as we face Covid and likely face a second wave at some point, we don’t think we can stop making serious progress in our ability to treat other diseases and conditions,” Mr. Ostrowsky said.
Groundbreaking for the project is scheduled for the fall, he said.
This will be the city’s biggest project in over 30 years, New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill said. The new facility will be built on the site of an existing middle school, he said. That will be replaced by a new K-8 public school located a few blocks away.
RWJBarnabas Health will be paying for most of the project, but Middlesex County will also be providing $25 million to what it considers a top economic-development project, said County Administrator John Pulomena. The county plans to issue bonds to help pay for the project, he said.
Mr. Pulomena said the county expects to be able to make payments for the money it borrows and has a rainy-day fund of $80 million to help cover any budget holes that may emerge this year.
Steven Libutti, director of Rutgers Cancer Institute, said the pandemic underscores the need for a dedicated cancer facility with inpatient care in a state where up to 52,000 people annually are diagnosed with the disease. Cancer patients have a greater risk for contracting Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and dying from it, he said. A dedicated cancer facility would be able to keep patients separated from potential exposure to infectious diseases, he said.
The new facility will also allow Rutgers Cancer Institute to expand its capacity to conduct clinical trials for new cancer treatments, Dr. Libutti said.
“Cancer isn’t going away. It’s not like cancer has gone on the sidelines waiting for the pandemic to pass,” said Dr. Libutti, noting that about 16,000 people die every year from the disease in New Jersey. “We don’t think we can afford not to move this project forward.”