By contributor Marc Monseau
Penn Medicine Princeton Health has contracted with Zufall Health to manage the hospital’s community health center, effective May 1. The center provides free or low-cost care to uninsured and underinsured residents in Mercer and Middlesex counties.
Currently known as the Bristol Myers Squibb Community Health Center, the clinic will be renamed the Zufall Health Community Health Center once the transition is complete.
Founded in 1990, Zufall Health, which is based in Dover, operates 11 community health clinics in New Jersey.
Hopsital officials said the outsourcing of the operations will enable the clinic to offer more services to more people, while also saving Penn Medicine Princeton Health money.
“This enables us to broaden access to those that need it within the community, and it will broaden the level of services in the clinic,” said James Demetriades, CEO of Penn Medicine Princeton Health. “We will be providing a broader mix of services that the community will really benefit from.”
The move comes as Penn Medicine Princeton Health seeks to make the clinic a Federally Qualified Health Center, or FQHC, said Demetriades, who assumed the role of CEO at Penn Medicine Princeton Health on March 1.
Federally Qualified Health Centers are community-based health care providers that receive funds from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Health Care Center program to provide primary care services in underserved communities. To be eligible, clinics must meet a stringent set of requirements, including providing care on a sliding fee scale based on the ability to pay and operating under a governing board that includes patients.
Penn Medicine Princeton Health anticipates the community health center, which currently serves, 3,729 families, will receive FQHC approval on May 1.
Some staff members have expressed concerns about their futures with the new company, and said their pay will be reduced a few dollars an hour once they begin working for Zufall, but that Penn Medicine Princeton Health has agreed to make up the difference for the first year.
Andrew Williams, spokesman for Penn Medicine Princeton Health, wrote in an e-mail that all existing 30 staff members have been offered continued employment with Zufall or Princeton Health and are guaranteed at least the same salary for the first year after Zufall assumes management of the clinic.
While the hospital anticipates some cost-savings associated with the agreement with Zufall, “the motivating factor has always been to do the most good for the most people we can,” Williams said.
Under Zufall Health management, the clinic will continue to provide primary and specialty care currently available through the clinic and expects to add podiatry services in the first year and dental care by the second year. In addition, Zufall will accept more public and private insurance plans than are currently accepted at the community health center, Williams said.