Published in NJ.com
By Tim Darragh

A federal study released Thursday about competition in health insurance marketplaces has one message for New Jersey’s Obamacare buyers: It could have been worse.

The study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that where counties saw a net increase in competitors — and each of New Jersey’s counties saw at least one additional player in the Affordable Care Act market — the cost of premiums grew more slowly than those that didn’t get more competition.

New Jersey’s 21 counties were among the 59 percent of all counties that used the federal government’s healthcare.gov marketplace and gained at least one additional issuer, according to the report.

UnitedHealthcare joined Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, AmeriHealth New Jersey; and Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey offering plans statewide in 2015. The start-up Oscar also began providing coverage in nine counties this year.

According to the study, the price increase for the benchmark plan in counties with healthy competition was 8.4 percentage points lower than in places where competition was flat or decreased.

Partly as a result of the competition, New Jersey was among the top states for limiting price increases. That was driven to an extent by Health Republic of New Jersey, which cut rates 10 percent to 20 percent for 2015.

“It’s working,” said Richard Frank, HHS Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation on a conference call with reporters. “The marketplace was designed to encourage competition between the issuers.”

HHS officials did not offer predictions on where the market will for 2016, although Frank said the fundamentals suggest “fairly modest” premium growth.

New Jersey had “very moderate” growth in the cost of Obamacare premiums this year, said David Oscar, an insurance broker in Fairfield and a spokesman for the New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters.

He said he does not expect more issuers to enter the state’s marketplace, saying that should not hurt pricing for 2016. Premium price increases should be in the “middle-to-low single digits,” Oscar said.

But not everyone will benefit. Some premiums are expected to jump more than 10 percent in 2016, an earlier report said.

That’s why it is important for consumers to shop and not assume their current plan will meet their needs next year, said Joel Cantor, director of the Center for State Health Policy at Rutgers University.

Overall, he also expects fairly low price increases for the next few years in New Jersey.

Since hitting a high of 18 percent in 2013, the percentage of Americans with no health insurance has fallen to 11.9 percent, according to Gallup.

Read on NJ.com here.

 

Published in The Courier-Post
By Kim Mulford

Like hospitals across the country, South Jersey’s health systems are fighting a pair of germs that are proving difficult to prevent.

Though two South Jersey hospitals ranked among the state’s best for overall patient safety, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming harder for everyone to kill, a troubling problem with deadly consequences, explained Doris Peters, director of Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center.

“Not enough is being done,” Peters said.

As part of its investigative series on the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, Consumer Reports released new hospital rankings Wednesday. Its patient safety scores include such things as mortality rates following surgery, infection rates, cesarean section rates, and patient satisfaction.

The nonprofit is sounding the alarm about such infections because they are so common — and preventable. Each year, nearly 650,000 people in the United States develop an infection during their hospital stay, and about 75,000 people die, said Peters.

Only six percent of the nation’s hospitals did well against both bugs, according to the nonprofit’s review of publicly available data.

No hospitals in New Jersey earned Consumer Reports’ highest ratings for preventing infections. Neither did Philadelphia’s largest hospitals. The ratings are based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state inpatient databases, and the American Hospital Association.

“If your hospital is a poor performer, I would call them out on it,” said Peters.

When it comes to overall patient safety, Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, and Virtua Memorial tied for third best among 62 hospitals in the state, according to the rankings.

Inspira Woodbury and Cooper University Hospital in Camden tied for 41st place in the state on overall patient safety. The Woodbury hospital earned the nonprofit’s highest rating for preventing MRSA infections (it had none), but saw 38 C. diff infections during the study period, 40 percent worse than the national average.

Kerry McKean Kelly, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said hospitals take infection prevention “very seriously” and are working to make it a part of their everyday culture.

But improvement is possible. Inspira Woodbury has seen a 20 percent drop in its C. diff rates over the past six months, noted Paul Simon, an Inspira spokesman.

Joseph Chirichella, Deborah’s president and CEO, said his hospital is vigilant about infection prevention, and is working to lower its rates of C. diff, a potentially deadly bug that flourishes when good bacteria in the bowel are killed by antibiotics. It had 11 such infections during the study period, about 30 percent worse than national average.

“I think patients and family members should expect the highest performance against these standards,” Chirichella said. “I agree with patients and their expectation that the industry do better against these things.”

But several South Jersey health systems questioned the data’s accuracy, something that even Consumer Reports raised concerns about in its story. Hospitals self-report their infection rates, the nonprofit noted. If patients have acquired an infection at a hospital that reported no infections during the study period, Consumer Reports is asking them to share their stories.

Consumer Reports’ database is just one of many hospital rankings, though Peters said its work is tailored specifically for consumers’ use.

Several health systems contacted for this story said their hospitals fare well in other ratings systems, like CMS’s Hospital Compare, The Joint Commission (a leading accreditation agency), or The Leapfrog Group, used by insurance companies and employers.

As an example, in 2014, Cooper received Leapfrog’s highest rating for quality and safety measures among New Jersey hospitals in the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey network, said Wendy Marano, a Cooper spokeswoman. According to Consumer Reports, the same hospital reported 28 MRSA infections between Oct. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2014, a performance that’s 102 percent worse than national rates.

“As an academic tertiary care hospital and a Level 1 Trauma Center, our patients do have a higher acuity and are more complex than other hospitals in Southern New Jersey,” Marano said. “As a regional referral center, we receive patients from 21 hospitals in Southern New Jersey.”

Dr. David Condoluci, Kennedy Health’s chief safety and quality officer, said the nonprofit’s database contained inaccuracies regarding basic information, like the number of Kennedy’s hospital beds. It also did not note Kennedy’s Joint Commission accreditation or its position as a teaching hospital, for example.

According to Consumer Reports, Kennedy reported 96 C. diff infections during the study period, 23 percent worse than the national average.

“We’re very proud of the strides we’ve made with that,” Condoluci said.

Lourdes Health System struggled in Consumer Reports’ ratings, racking up its second worst grade for overall infection control for its Willingboro location. Its Camden hospital had seven MRSA infections during the study period, earning Consumer Reports’ worst grade for preventing that bug.

Infection numbers are tracked and reported at every quality committee meeting, said Carol Lynn Daly, a Lourdes spokeswoman. The system is “laser-focused on infection prevention and control,” she said.

At Virtua, improvement is already being made, said John Matsinger, its executive vice president and chief clinical officer.

“Really, over the last three years, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the things we’ve done,” he said. Even food service staff are trained on proper hand-washing techniques, for example, and black lights are used to ensure rooms are properly cleaned.

But it’s not easy, hospital representatives acknowledged.

“We all have challenges,” said Condoluci. “We know infections are a big deal and we’re working hard to make it as safe as we can for our patients — and we’re doing better and better each month and year.”

Here’s how South Jersey hospitals fared on Consumer Report’s overall patient safety scores. The scores based on a scale of 1 to 100. The lowest rated hospital in the country received 20, and the highest received 77.

To read the report, visit www.consumerreports.org Access to the database is available to online subscribers only.

• Deborah Heart and Lung Center, Browns Mills: 58

• Virtua Memorial, Mount Holly: 58

• Inspira Medical Center, Elmer: 55

• Virtua, Voorhees: 54

• Inspira Medical Center, Vineland: 49

• Kennedy Health System (Cherry Hill, Stratford, Washington Township): 47

• Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County, Willingboro: 45

• Memorial Hospital of Salem County, Salem: 45

• Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Camden: 44

• Cooper University Hospital, Camden: 43

• Inspira Medical Center Woodbury: 43

Kim Mulford: (856) 486-2448 or kmulford@GannettNJ.com

Read on Courier Post Online here.

Published in The Record
By Lindy Washburn

Houses along Ocean Terrace in Ortley Beach were ripped off their foundations during Superstorm Sandy. -AMY NEWMAN/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy — slow rebuilding of homes and businesses, long insurance battles and mold that refuses to die — have taken a toll on the mental health of New Jersey residents in its path, a major study released Wednesday found.

Nearly three years after storm waters surged through Moonachie and Little Ferry and swept houses off their foundations at the Shore, the study found that more than one in four residents whose homes were damaged still experienced emotional distress. More than one in eight reported signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The effect was like being thrust into deep poverty, with its constant, stressful drumbeat of uncertainty, said David Abramson, an associate professor of public health at New York University and the principal investigator of the study, which was funded by the New Jersey Department of Health.

“The similarities between Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy are quite disturbing,” said Abramson, who conducted similar research in Louisiana after that 2005 disaster and is an expert in the growing field of resiliency research. “Many adults and children are still experiencing emotional and psychological effects so long after the storm passed.”

For many of those still recovering, “housing damage is at the heart of the problem,” he said.

More than a million people — about one-eighth of the state’s population — resided in the storm’s path from Cape May to Bergen counties, and 100,000 suffered through significant structural damage to their homes, the researchers said. Of the 117 people who died as a result of the storm on the East Coast, 75 were in New Jersey.

“We’re still in recovery,” said Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd, whose department allocated $1.1 million in federal aid for the study, conceived shortly after the storm’s 2012 devastation. “We wanted to take the opportunity to learn from our experience in Sandy.”

Screening project

Early data helped guide decisions about state spending on social services and health. That included, for example, mental health screening of everyone who sought care at an emergency room or a community health center in the storm areas — an initiative that has reached 50,000 people so far and has been extended for another year.

A key finding from the research is that children whose homes were damaged were particularly at risk. Those living in homes with minor damage were more than five times as likely to feel sad or depressed as those living in homes with no damage, and more than eight times as likely to have trouble sleeping.

Surprisingly, the kids in homes with minor damage — defined as uninhabitable for only a short period of time — were reported to suffer more psychologically than those living in homes with major damage. That may be because households that sustained major damage were completely focused on repairs and rebuilding, whereas those with minor damage may have taken longer to address the problem.

Their damaged surroundings may be “a persistent reminder to the children of what had happened and the fact that chaos is still in their lives,” Abramson said. Housing assistance programs might do well to accelerate repairs to homes with young children, the report said in its conclusions.

The presence of mold, too, can be an enduring reminder of the storm’s assault.

Mold had a double-barreled effect: Adults exposed to it were 2½ times more likely to be diagnosed with asthma than those who weren’t exposed, and twice as likely to report mental distress, the study said.

This validated the state’s focus on helping get rid of the mold that grew in homes that had been flooded, O’Dowd said. The state distributed more than 10,000 copies of a mold brochure in a dozen languages to homeowners, municipal offices and disaster relief groups, and it trained more than 200 public health professionals and housing officials at Rutgers.

Bergen interviews

Data for the Sandy Child and Family Health Study were gathered by more than 30 researchers fielded by Rutgers University, who conducted hourlong, face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in the storm’s footprint. A random sampling of addresses within 20 miles of the water’s edge in nine counties was chosen for the first set of interviews, conducted from August through April. A second round, with the same people, is under way.

The research included a “substantial number” of interviews in Bergen County, said Donna Van Alst of the Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work, a co-investigator on the study.

“We never really knew what we would find when we went out,” she said. Some of the homes had sustained little damage and simply lost power for a day, while at other addresses, the home had been destroyed. Many of the people interviewed cried during the interview, she said.

The research revealed the layered impact of such a large-scale natural disaster. “At the very beginning, there’s basic needs,” such as making sure the family has food and shelter. “Then there’s a lot of rebuilding,” she said. “People put aside dealing with the emotional impact and the effect on family relationships. It’s not surprising that you see these mental health effects” three years after the storm.

Long-term concerns

The study’s investigators hope to secure funding to extend the research well into the future, when the long-term effects may become evident. Toxic stress levels can induce cellular changes that may result in health consequences 10 or 15 years later, Abramson said.

The joint research project, conducted by Rutgers and NYU in collaboration with Columbia University and Colorado State University, is the latest — and largest — of several studies in New Jersey on the storm’s effects. Two additional sections, on problems and progress, are expected to be released in October. Other researchers have studied the effect on the elderly, and on those with chronic kidney disease who rely on dialysis.

“The benefit to New Jersey and the country for us investing in this type of research is we will be ‘eyes wide open’” when another natural disaster strikes, said O’Dowd. “We’ll have a better road map for planning and a great opportunity to target the populations that need help.”

Read on NorthJersey.com here.

When you spend days, months and years in health policy, you sometimes get a jaundiced view of healthcare delivery. I guess this is another way of saying it takes quite a bit to inspire me.

I clicked on a video link today describing a new initiative simply because it dealt with a friend of mine, Amy Mansue, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Specialized Hospital. Amy has taken an already accomplished healthcare facility for children with very special needs and turned it into a center of excellence and, I believe, a quality jewel. The hospital, for instance, is a Leapfrog Top Hospital after the leadership insisted it be evaluated.

By insisting on quality at the highest level for her entire team, and by recruiting excellent clinicians, led by chief medical officer, Dr. Christopher Haines, Amy has raised the bar. Children throughout New Jersey, the country and, indeed, the world are better off today because of the efforts of Amy, Dr. Haines, and the entire hospital team.

(In the video, you will see Amy, in a red dress, “singing” to an infant and later in the video with black anti-reflective eye strips. You will see Dr. Haines with white coat and stethoscope.)

The video goes beyond the focus on the hospital’s quality health care and shows the inspiring journey taken by these children and their families. Singer Rachel Platten gave the hospital permission to use her song. Amy used that gift as an opportunity to create a powerful video.

I hope you’ll take a look for yourself here. Be sure to jack up the volume and get into it. Tissue alert: You will need them!

Published in Philly.com
By Sheena Fahrety

The 12-story Buerger Center is the most expensive building project in Children’s history. (CHARLES FOX / Staff)

The newest building at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia will open its doors Monday, providing a state-of-the-art outpatient facility for the body and a roof garden for the soul.

The 12-story Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care, the most expensive building project in Children’s history, will cost $425 million, with an additional $175 million needed for equipment. The glass-lined building, streaked with primary colors, sits on Civic Center Boulevard, across the street and just south of the main hospital.

The center is designed to make care more efficient and convenient. A child with a skeletal injury can see an orthopedic surgeon, have X-rays, get casting, and visit the rehab center all on the same floor.

Among other features, the main lobby has a walking ramp with interactive displays that can double as a venue for physical therapy. Likewise, a rock-climbing wall rises on the fourth floor, continuing the designers’ guiding principle of “Children in Motion.”

The project was financed by a $50 million gift from the family of Alan Buerger, founder of the Coventry life insurance company. The project was also funded through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $94.5 million, a $200 million bond issue, hospital reserves, and other gifts.

In many ways, the jewel of the new building is a 14,000-square-foot roof garden on the sixth floor, the largest of its kind and a first at an outpatient facility, said lead architect Diane Osan of FKP Architects in Houston.

The garden will provide a relatively new kind of care – horticultural therapy – which engages patients in plant-based activities, guided by a trained therapist. It can offer relief from physical and cognitive impairments, reduce stress, and inspire hope.

The garden will be surprisingly local, with a water feature shaped like the Schuylkill and plants laid out to reflect the city’s block grid system.

“A child can come and see 12 to 16 different providers in one visit,” noted Osan. “There will be inevitable pauses in the care journey where patients have to wait.”

Providing diversions for those moments is one goal. Gwenn Fried, the manager of horticultural therapy services at NYU’s rehabilitation institute, said that a garden can give patients and families an inspiring way to wait.

The walkways can be used for physical therapy. “For a patient that is relearning to walk, every texture that they encounter [on foot] in an urban environment is a new challenge to them,” Osan said.

So the garden has different surfaces for the children to practice on, from concrete steps to those that mimic a city curb, to a running path that cuts through the middle of the garden.

Gary Wangler, who directs the horticultural therapy program at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, suggested a less obvious role for gardens. They can help engage and support siblings who feel ignored.

Fried said these outdoor spaces can expose urban kids to nature.

Tending to plants can also encourage children to think that they too can survive and grow, Fried said.

“The kids wonder, ‘What will this seed look like in the future?’ ” she said. “It’s very symbolic and connective for them.”

She added: “Working outside with nature is normalizing. No one expects to find this in a hospital.”

Read on Philly.com here.

Published in Asbury Park Press
By Michael Diamond

TOMS RIVER – – With her doctor unable to see her one day last March, Patricia Schaub decided to drive from her home here to Ocean Care Center in Point Pleasant to get treated for a cough, headache, and overall blahs.

She was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, and given a Motrin and prescription for cough medicine and antibiotics. Ten minutes later, she was on her way home.

What did the visit cost? $1,315.

“I can’t even tell you how I felt when I opened the bill,” Schaub, 63, said. “So I called them and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? You’re charging $1,315? I was there 10 minutes.’ I said, ‘You gave me a prescription. This is ludicrous.’ So they said, ‘This is what the fee is.’”

As consumers dig deeper to into their own pockets to pay for their health care, they are finding a basic tenet of the free market missing from the equation. Namely, they rarely know how much the service costs before they buy it.

Health care providers say there is a reason. The economics are complicated. Doctors, for example, might not know what services they need to provide until after they examine their patients. And even then, they might have negotiated different prices with different insurance companies.

But public health advocates are ramping up their calls on hospitals, doctors, insurers and regulators to provide more transparency about health care prices, noting that in the age of Obamacare, when patients have more responsibility for their own health, they need as much price information as they can get.

“With high deductibles and cost-sharing in new plans, consumers are having to pay more attention to price,” said Linda Schwimmer, vice president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a research and advocacy organization. “But without any sort of functional or transparent marketplace, the consumer is left making blind decisions.”

“Send me 100 telephone poles”

Schaub has her insurance through Verizon Communications, where she worked in the purchasing department until she retired in 2003. And her policy is enviable. She has no deductible, and she only had to pay $75 for her visit; her insurance company ultimately paid $1,108. (The statement from the facility showed that the Motrin itself was free).

After talking to Ocean Care Center, she called her insurer and expressed her outrage. The representative told her not to worry; they would cover most of the cost, Schaub said.

Schaub’s response? That’s not the point. Health care costs are shared by everyone. Had she known the price ahead of time, she would have waited a day or two until her doctor could have seen her, she said.

At Verizon, she purchased everything from manhole covers to telephone poles. “You can’t just call up and say, ‘Send me 100 telephone poles,’” Schaub said. “You need to know what the price is. If you don’t like their price, you shop around until you get the best price.”

There is an explanation for the eye-opening cost. Ocean Care Center in Point Pleasant opened in 2004, a couple of years after Point Pleasant Hospital closed. It was the state’s first free-standing emergency department.

It looks like an urgent care center. In fact, that’s what Schaub thought it was. But it operates around the clock and has all of the high-tech bells and whistles – and operating costs – that come with the designation of an emergency department.

“Because of the technology and resources and personnel and the way they are set up, it’s very high end, and they typically cost more than a visit to an urgent care center,” said Dean Lin, president of Brick-based Ocean Medical Center, which is owned by Meridian Health.

Patients fly blind

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known has Obamacare, set out to provide near-universal health insurance and slow down the rapidly escalating cost of health care.

Unlike Schaub, many consumers are finding that the most affordable policies come with deductibles that force them to pay $2,500 or more out of pocket before insurance kicks in.

The potentially steep price tag is a free-market idea designed to make consumers think twice before heading to the doctor or hospital when they get sick. Or they can at least shop around for the best price, fostering competition and, ideally, putting the brakes on cost.

But a health care waiting room isn’t like, say, the counter at Smashburger, where prices are on full display. The health care industry has a tangled web of prices often determined through negotiations with insurance companies. Consumers generally learn of the cost long after their visit.

“When you buy almost anything else, you know what you’re paying before you get the bill,” said Stuart Guterman, senior scholar in residence at AcademyHealth, a Washington, D.C., trade group.

One-stop shopping

The scramble is on to bring transparency to the process:

•New Jersey lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require health care providers to tell patients in advance if their procedure isn’t part of their insurance companies’ network. Out-of-network procedures are more expensive.

It also would publish a Healthcare Price Index that would list median prices of in-netwok insurance claims.

•Some insurance companies have begun to offer their members a chance to comparison shop online. New Jersey’s biggest insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, this month is rolling out an online tool that lets its customers see what providers charge for procedures.

•Other companies and researchers are compiling data to shed light on costs. Among them: Guroo, created by the nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute, is working on a website that would allow consumers to see the average cost of dozens of procedures.

•Some practices are taking steps on their own. Kristy Caldarella, owner of Abilities in Action, a pediatric therapy provider with offices in Shrewsbury and Wall, described a complicated system in which prices vary depending on the patient’s insurer.

But “our parents, when they call to schedule their children with therapy, we tell them exactly how much it’s going to cost,” Caldarella said. “As consumers, we felt it was really important for parents to know up front what we bill their insurer and what their responsibility will be.”

Officials from both the New Jersey Hospital Association and the Medical Society of New Jersey said they empathize with consumers.

“Unfortunately it’s not one-stop shopping right now,” said Kerry McKean Kelly, spokeswoman for the hospital association, a trade group. We know we need to find a way for the industry to make this easier for consumers.”

Four months after her visit to Ocean Care Center, Patricia Schaub said she was so steamed that she briefly considered not paying the $75 for the visit, until she decided it wasn’t worth the fight; her credit score would take a hit.

“If no one makes a stink about this, it will continue,” she said. “Someone’s going to get the fallout from this. This $1,315, somebody’s going to be paying for this somewhere.”

Michael L. Diamond; 732-643-4038; mdiamond@gannettnj.com

By the numbers:

  • 3.9 percent: The increase in per capita health care spending per insured in 2013.
  • -0.5 percent: The decline in utilization for outpatient services in 2013.
  • 5.8 percent: The increase in price paid for outpatient services in 2013.
  • 0.8 percent: The increase in utilization for professional services in 2013.
  • 2.5 percent: The increase in price paid for professional services in 2013.

Source: Health Care Cost Institute

Read on APP.com here.

Last year, just over 1,500 U.S. hospitals voluntarily completed the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, the highest recorded participation to date. These hospitals are committed to transparency–for the benefit of their patients and their communities. But more hospitals need to be on board.

New Jersey is one of the top performers when it comes to Leapfrog Hospital Survey completion. With 71 general acute care and pediatric hospitals that are targeted to complete the survey, 62 did so in 2014.

This year, the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, Leapfrog’s Regional Roll-out Entity for New Jersey, made it their goal to get 100 percent survey participation. So far two hospital systems, St. Joseph’s Healthcare System and AtlantiCare, have committed to participate in the 2015 Survey, leaving five non-reporting hospitals—CentraState Healthcare system, Memorial Hospital of Salem County, Saint Michael’s Medical Center, St. Luke’s Warren Campus, and St. Mary’s Hospital of Passaic. The Quality Institute commends St. Joseph’s Healthcare System and AtlantiCare for their leadership and is committed to working with the five non-reporting hospitals to encourage them to participate, address any concerns they may have, and connect them to their hospital colleagues who have found that participating in the survey has helped them make quality improvement and patient safety a top priority in their hospitals.

Published by Times of Trenton

The Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) is very pleased to learn that Medicare has decided to cover people’s conversations with their physicians on healthcare decision-making.  PSRC is participating in the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, “Conversations of a Lifetime”, that aims to bring advanced care planning conversations to NJ communities.  Princeton was selected by New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute as one of three communities to pilot this initiative.  Participating organizations, including PSRC, Princeton Public Library, Goals of Care, and PHCS are presenting programs to educate the public and health professionals about the importance of planning and having these conversations with family and doctors.

PSRC staff are leading workshops to help people complete healthcare directives, facilitating a group called “Conversations on Being Mortal,” and assisting individuals with their questions.  These programs will help people age 18+ prepare for having these important conversations with doctors and family so they can confidently know how to make decisions when they are unable to do so which are consistent with their wishes.

Susan W. Hoskins
Executive Director, PSRC

Read on NJ.com here.

Published in NJBIZ
By Eric Strauss

Leslie Hirsch, CEO and president of Saint Clare’s Health System, is joining Saint Peter’s Healthcare System as president, Saint Peter’s announced Monday.

Hirsch, who served as chief executive officer and president of the Denville system for seven years, will shift to the New Brunswick-based system effective Aug. 24, according to Saint Peter’s CEO Ronald C. Rak.

“Les Hirsch and I share the same vision and values,” Rak said in a prepared statement. “We are privileged to have such a transformational leader join our team. Saint Peter’s is a front-runner in New Jersey’s health care marketplace. We look forward to his aid in strengthening that position through his wealth of experience, creative ideas and eagerness to aggressively advance organizational growth.

“Given his extensive experience in faith-based health care, Les is also mindful of the special role played by our Catholic hospitals.”

Hirsch — who will report to Rak — will oversee day-to-day management of the Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, including organizational structure, finance, strategic initiatives and more. Rak had asked the board of governors to create a separate position of president in 2014, and a national search followed, with Hirsch’s hiring the end result.

He is a veteran of the health care industry, with 16 years as a health care CEO under his belt, including four years in charge of Cooper Health System in Camden. He had served as chief operating officer at Cooper for 11 years before becoming CEO.

Saint Peter's Healthcare System CEO Ronald C. Rak.

Saint Peter’s Healthcare System CEO Ronald C. Rak. – (PRNEWSFOTO/SAINT PETER’S HEALTHCARE SYSTEM)

“I am very excited to be joining the team at Saint Peter’s,” Hirsch said in a statement. “It is my hope to build many relationships within and outside of the organization that help Saint Peter’s forge even stronger bonds with its key constituencies, especially employees, the physician community, fellow health care organizations, area and state governmental entities and the communities we serve. I am honored to be joining such a highly respected and mission-driven organization.”

Rak will continue to lead the Saint Peter’s system — which has Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick as its flagship facility — including handling system-wide strategy, fundraising and external relationships.

“I have known Ron Rak professionally for many years, and I look forward to working with him,” Hirsch said. “I am equally excited to work with the Saint Peter’s physicians and staff, who are among the best in the industry, as shown by the many clinical, quality and patient-care awards earned by Saint Peter’s.”

The for-profit Prime Healthcare is taking over the Saint Clare’s system this summer.

Read in NJBIZ here.