Kessler Memorial Hospital closing in N.J.

March 12, 2009 4:32:08 PM PDT
For more than 40 years Kessler Memorial has provided health care to Hammonton, New Jersey and nearby communities. On Thursday evening, Atlantic Care took control of Kessler's emergency department.

That has now come to an end. Kessler will close its doors as an acute care hospital Thursday night.

"I worked here 33 years, and I worked 25 years in the emergency room. This day is horrible," said emergency room nurse Maria Brita.

When Kessler employees reported for work Thursday, they learned that it would be their final day on the job.

The hospital was shut down by the state health dept for financial reasons after a last ditch effort to sell Kessler fell through.

"Sad, very sad. I have 25 years here, half of my life," said secretary Debbie Spado.

"It's crushing. I live across the street, and its nice having a hospital in this community. I hope, at least, the emergency room stays open, because its a long ride," said emergency room nurse Tracy Alessi.

All day long, patients were transported by ambulance to other hospitals.

Joan Ehrke was waiting to go home. She's heartbroken to see Kessler close. The closest hospital to Hammonton is 13 miles away.

"I came in here over the years because they all know me. Its like family," Ehrke said.

"This hospital saved my life three times. Once with a massive heart attack, another time with sugar diabetes, another time with congestive heart failure," said Peter Alotto of Hammonton.

The 400 staffers now out of work lined up Thursday for one week's pay, but they're owed two more.

They worked without pay as the hospital struggled to find a buyer.

"You're talking about a group that was so special that, even without getting paid, they came in. They came in because they're dedicated to their profession," said medical staff president Dr. Jack Kanoff.

Atlantic Care will now make this a satellite emergency department.

Anyone brought here will either be treated and released or treated and transferred to another hospital.

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