Select language:
News & Announcements

St. Francis Medical Center CEO Talks About the Trenton Hospital’s Present and Future

TRENTON – Since 1874, when the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia founded what is now called St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, the hospital has been a city mainstay at the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Chambers Street in a once largely Italian-American enclave called Chambersburg.

Times have changed radically in the medical profession and in the city that surrounds St. Francis, which now joins Capital Health’s Regional Medical Center on Brunswick Avenue as one of two remaining hospitals in the capital of New Jersey.

The move of Capital Health’s Bellevue Avenue hospital from Trenton to its new suburban campus in Hopewell as a single-room-only facility with state-of-the-art technology has created a distinct choice for patients. The new hospital has none of the concerns that come with inner city crime or the perception of danger that lingers there. As a result, St. Francis is battling new realities: A growing tide of impoverished patients, an inability to expand in place and the reluctance of suburban patients to travel to Trenton for health care.

St. Francis president and CEO Gerard J. Jablonowski, however, points to the hospital’s reputation for providing a high-quality of cardiac care, among other services. And in the rising need to treat those patients left behind he believes St. Francis has a renewed mission. Much of it has to do with the facility’s Catholic base, as Jablonowski explained.

Q: Does being a Catholic hospital help or hurt in terms of attracting patients these days?

A: From a position of a faith base, it helps identify us to the community. We remain committed to the most poor and vulnerable of our city. We have a higher level of compassion, a sense of Catholic identity and a ministry. Our mission is to serve all people of any faith or without any faith.

Q: How will your mission evolve, if at all, based on local hospital industry changes?

A: Our mission is to administer to the people of the city of Trenton. Our commitment is firm. We have been here 138 years and see no reason to change.

Q: Has the establishment of two new hospitals, Capital Health in Hopewell and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, caused St. Francis to change any of its plans for the future?

A: It has redefined our purpose to commit to the inner city urban environment as others leave. We’re here to fill those gaps, even as others migrate out. There are a lot of creative ways. One is to collaborate with other providers in the city through the Trenton Health Team to reduce emergency room visits for people who really need primary care and to educate people with chronic disease, like diabetes or chronic heart disease, so they can take better care of themselves. Thankfully, there are grants that are helping us.

Q: How has your involvement in the Trenton Health Team paid off and what still needs to be done?

A: Through the combined efforts of St. Francis, the Henry J. Austin Health Center, the Capital Health System and the city’s health department, we’ve more than assessed where the problems lie in the city. We look at high utilizers of emergency rooms – some have made an outrageous number of visits to ER – and we cut down on those visits. We’ve made increased efforts at all of the clinics to have the same practitioners follow a single patient instead of having that patient go to three or four doctors who don’t follow his case.

Q: Last year you announced the construction of an auxiliary campus on Route 130 in Bordentown, but the project, done in conjunction with former football pro Kevin Johnson’s fitness facility, has been long-delayed by union problems. When will the facility open?

A: Our ambulatory wellness center is under construction now in Bordentown and will open in April 2013. It will be an all-outpatient facility. It will be an extension of our services, not a replacement. It’s in an area not really served by any other health organization. We can’t build out our Trenton facility any more, but we can build satellites like this one which will meet a rapidly increasing demand for patient services and have good highway access. I’ve met with all the unions and all the fit-outs will use union and local workers.

Q: How has the move of Capital Health affected the number of patients St. Francis is treating?

A: Our emergency room and clinic have seen a rapid growth since November. In-patient bed days are decreasing as insurance companies move toward wellness solutions and away from hospital stays. I’d say since November we’ve seen a 15 percent increase in ER volume. Patients from Burlington County are also up. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of charity and Medicaid cases over the last two or three years.

Q. Does St. Francis have any capital improvement program in the works?

A: We’re starting a $1 million renovation in the emergency room. We’ll have a better environment, design, security, privacy and efficiency. All work will be phased in and it will be a stress. It’s not an expansion, though.

Q: Where does St. Francis need improvement and, if you had the money, what would you fix?

A: We are making the hospital more efficient. We have nursing pods now, not just a single nursing station on each floor. We have 145 beds and we’re using about 110. We’re moving from a sickness model to a healthy model. Our goal is wellness, not to have all of our hospital beds full. We’re trying to influence younger children to stay healthy and save them from a life of debilitating disease.

About the Trenton Health Team
Trenton Health Team (THT) is an alliance of the city’s major providers of healthcare services including Capital Health, St. Francis Medical Center, Henry J. Austin Health Center and the city’s Health Department. In collaboration with residents and the city’s active social services network, THT is developing an integrated healthcare delivery system to transform the city’s fragmented primary care system and restore health to the city. THT aims to make Trenton the healthiest city in the state. Support for the Trenton Health Team was provided in part by a grant from The Nicholson Foundation. For more information, visit