Cooper Health unveils $2 billion expansion project

The system said it will dramatically expand its campus in Camden, New Jersey. Leaders also hailed it as a sign of the city’s turnaround after decades of struggle.

Cooper Health plans to invest $2 billion into a project that the system’s leaders said would dramatically transform its campus in Camden, New Jersey.

Leaders said the project is going to help meet both the current and anticipated demand of Cooper University Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. The project involves building three new towers with 100 patient rooms. It will also add more teaching space.

The project will both modernize the campus and help draw top clinicians to Cooper, the system said. Cooper also said the project would be environmentally sustainable.

Kevin O’Dowd, co-CEO of Cooper, described the project as the culmination of a years-long effort to reshape the health system.

“Cooper has grown into an elite, nationally recognized academic health system, and this amazing transformation could only have been achieved through the tireless effort of dedicated and committed team members,” O’Dowd said. “Today, we say thank you to all those who have served on the Cooper team for making possible this milestone announcement which will solidify our role in the community for the many decades to come.”

Cooper has evolved in recent years, notably with the addition of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, along with Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

“This expansion will give our dedicated professionals the resources, innovation, and flexibility to continue to serve, heal, and educate our community and allow us to further recruit top-notch talent,” Anthony J. Mazzarelli, Cooper’s co-CEO, said in a statement.

While touting the virtues of the project for the health system, Cooper also said it will help in the decades-long effort to revitalize the city of Camden, long one of America’s most troubled and impoverished cities.

In recent years, Camden has made noticeable strides in improving safety and drawing more companies to set up shop in the small city that sits along the Delaware River, just across from Philadelphia. Cooper described Camden as the safest it’s been in 50 years.

While Cooper serves a large number of patients on Medicaid due to their low incomes, the health system has fared better than some other providers because of its advanced cancer care and cardiology services, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. At the end of June, Cooper had $858 million in cash, compared to $270 million in long-term debt, the Inquirer reported.

Like the city of Camden, Cooper endured its share of troubles not too long ago. At one point in 1999, the system was just weeks from missing payroll.

Cooper, like Camden, has evolved in recent years, notably with the addition of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, along with Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and other local leaders attended an event to announce the project Monday.

“Camden has seen a dramatic transformation in recent years as many state and local partners have worked together to improve the city, and Cooper has played an integral role in those efforts,” Murphy said in a statement.

“By supporting public safety, educational opportunities, and job creation in addition to providing quality medical care, Cooper has taken a holistic and meaningful approach to strengthening the health of the community it serves.”

Kelly Ripa, host of “Live with Kelly and Ryan,” sent a video message for the opening. Ripa is a native of Camden County and appeared in ads for the health system for years.

“I know one thing about the people in this city and the county of Camden,” she said in the video. “We like to dream big.”