RWJ Barnabus CEO: Hospitals need to focus on community needs


One of the most successful local healthcare system chief executive officers believes his colleagues should focus on keeping patients healthy as opposed to obsessively nurturing the bottom line.

Barry Ostrowsky, CEO of RWJBarnabas Health in Northern New Jersey, believes that acute care providers should strive to meet the needs of their communities as oppose to sticking their fingers in the wind to make the best business case for transformation.

“Every healthcare system ought to be in that mode: Determine what is best for the community of people you serve and try to deliver that,” he told the Asbury Park Press. “And if you need a different kind of venue or a different kind of communication system or whatever it is that you need, that’s where you make your investment as opposed to what you read in the last industry trade journal and say, 'Oh we’ve got to have a left ear clinic because they’re opening left ear clinics.""

Ostrowsky said even his own healthcare system is not immune from this issue. Newark, New Jersey, which RWJBarnabas serves, has had poor health indicators for decades, even though the hospitals serving the community have been considered top-notch.

The introspection comes at an interesting time for New Jersey hospitals and their executives. RWJBarnabas Health paid Ostrowsky's predecessor $22 million the year after he retired, one of the highest payouts ever made to the head of a not-for-profit healthcare system. Meanwhile, the state's non-profit healthcare operators are under tremendous pressure to pay property taxes. Ostrowsky is actually one of the few healthcare CEOs to support such payments.

Ostrowsky also told the publication that the government should tweak the Affordable Care Act so that it considers the services people need, the best way to deliver those services and how organizations can effectively finance the delivery of those services.