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JFK Medical Center marks 50 years

The JFK Health network, which includes JFK Medical Center in Edison, merged with Hackensack Meridian Health last May. JFK is marking 50 years as a community hospital in Edison.

EDISON — JFK Medical Center is celebrating 50 years.

The Township Council voted in favor of a resolution celebrating the significant milestone at a council meeting on July 26.

In 1961, Edison Mayor Anthony M. Yelencsics launched an effort to establish a hospital to serve Edison, Metuchen, Woodbridge and the surrounding communities.

JFK Medical Center was built with the mission to provide high quality and accessible care and good local jobs.

The hospital was dedicated on July 15, 1967 and opened on August 7, 1967.

JFK Medical Center was built through funds raised by large gifts from local businesses, civic and social organizations as well as the hard work of township residents soliciting donations door to door.

The hospital opened with 206 beds and a group of 450 dedicated employees. The cost of the hospital was $5.6 million. Edison Township pledged $100,000 and donated the 37 acre property where the hospital sits on James Street.

The JFK Auxiliary was formed in 1962 with more than 200 women to aid in the fundraising efforts. In the next 50 years, JFK evolved into one of Central Jersey’s most trusted hospitals known throughout the country.

Over its 50 years, JFK went through several expansions. In 1964, the hospital opened the Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. In 1984, JFK opened the Hartwyck Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers and in 1992 the Neuroscience Institute opened.

In 1997, the hospital had a five story patient tower of new operating rooms and maternity unit constructed. In 2012, the hospital introduced its Stroke and Neurovascular Center and in 2015, the hospital opened an emergency pediatric department on the Plainfield campus and an Urgent Care in Piscataway.

In May, JFK Medical Center merged with Hackensack Meridian Health.

Throughout the 50 years of service, the hospital has been recognized and received several awards.

“Listening to the resolution, it’s an amazing journey from what [the hospital] started as to what it has become,” said Councilman Alvaro Gomez.

He said for Edison, JFK is the township’s largest not for profit entity and is the township’s largest employer with approximately 5,000 employees.

“[JFK] has been one of the greatest additions that we have had in the history of our town and we couldn’t be more proud and thankful for everything that JFK has done with the community,” Gomez said. “One of the most impressive things is the number of volunteers involved from our community. [The hospital] has [more than] 500 volunteers beginning with governing boards all the way down to fundraising and people on the hospital floor.”

Councilman Robert Diehl said he remembers when the hospital opened 50 years ago.

“It was small,” he said. “The neighborhood doesn’t look like the neighborhood it looks like today. It was different, it wasn’t as developed as it is today and through the years with the additions and what has been done there over the past 50 years, I can say I remember it all as it happened.”

Diehl said the township is blessed to have a hospital.

“In case of an emergency, we don’t have to go a great distance to get to a hospital,” he said. “It is a big advantage for us.”

Councilman Joe Coyle said he agreed with Diehl.

“We have two industrial parks, two business parks, a great school system and we have a hospital,” he said.

Councilman Leonard Sendelsky said JFK has the busiest emergency room in Middlesex County. He said the hospital supports many of the non-profit organizations in the township including the Edison Fall Family Spectacular, Fourth of July Fireworks, BAPS Charity Walk, the Edison Memorial Tower and the YMCA.

“[JFK] has been an integral part of our community,” he said noting that his late father, Leonard, was one of the original sponsors of the hospital and board member for close to 50 years. “He loved the hospital.”

Steve Weiss said it was an honor to accept the resolution on behalf of JFK Medical Center.

“It really has been 50 years,” he said. “What is really amazing is it is more than just the trust put in the brand at JFK. The real value can be seen in the hallways of JFK, the employees.”

Weiss said the typical employee has been with the hospital for 30 plus years.

“We just had an employee retire after being there for all 50 years at the hospital,” he said. “A few have 48 years … this is an unusual occurrence when it comes to an organization.”

Weiss said the longevity of JFK’s employees and volunteers demonstrates their compassion for the hospital.

“JFK has been part of their lives,” he said. “JFK is really blessed to be part of Edison and we look forward to another 50 plus years together.”

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