By Chris Bishop
Former football star Jon Runyan got a chance to tackle an old issue Thursday at Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County.
Runyan, who is a Republican congressman for the 3rd District, learned about health care concerns from the doctors and administrators at the hospital during his afternoon tour of the facility on Sunset Road in Willingboro.
Runyan said little during the hospital tour, instead listening to officials talk about their fears and how they were handling health care.
Cheri Cowperthwait, the CEO for Lourdes Specialty Hospital of Southern New Jersey, said the tour was an excellent chance to show the congressman how "multi-disciplinary teamwork and steadfast dedication helps Lourdes Specialty Hospital thrive in quality patient care outcomes."
Runyan, a strong critic of the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act, said nothing about the impending changes to health care as the federal law takes effect, mandating that all residents have health care insurance as of Jan. 1.
Runyan, a Mount Laurel resident, however, was full of praise for the work at the Lourdes Specialty Hospital.
"They have all the specialists here from nutrition to pharmacy all the way up where they can actually get people out of the hospital and back home and ultimately at the end of the day, down the road, saving Medicare money because of the fact that (patients) are not in the hospital for a long extended period of time," the congressman said after the tour. "They have a great team and great facilities around them ..."
Cowperthwait, a Southampton resident, said it was an "honor" that the congressman visited Lourdes.
The specialty hospital was the first of its kind in the southern half of the state, she said.
"(Runyan) was very engaged. Most of the message really had to do with the services provided," she said.
Runyan, a former offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles, said Lourdes Specialty Hospital was "vital to our regional health system's landscape and success and a great comfort for patients in the region. It's their goal to offer hope and support to this community and to make a difference in the lives of those suffering with illnesses in our area."
Lourdes Specialty Hospital, a "hospital within a hospital" is housed on the third floor of the Lourdes Medical Center. It expanded into the former maternity unit, tripling the number of patient rooms, in 2011.
The $8 million expansion aimed to meet a need for long-term care for patients too sick to be discharged from a regular hospital to their home, a nursing facility or rehabilitation center.