Health care has been in the national spotlight, as well as in New Jersey, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act and changes to hospital structures. Barnabas Health President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that while care has improved, the current state of health care is chaotic.
“There is just unmitigated chaos in the industry among physicians, among institutions, among consumers,” Ostrowsky said. “And while we’re all looking for the same solution, I think right now the chaos is difficult to sort out.”
Ostrowsky said the care has never been better. “If you find your way to the right place with the right diagnosis, you will get care and treatment that’s unequaled in the past,” he said. The problem is some people are having difficulty navigating the system, he explained.
Barnabas Health is the largest provider in the state and Ostrowsky said the size makes it easier to react to changes in laws, but also somewhat more cumbersome. “I think because of our resource space and because of the number of people we have working with us and various demographics in which we’re located, I think it’s easier for us to react,” he said. “I think anytime you manage a big organization, there’s a level of complication in just executing. But for us, I’d much rather be the size we are, frankly perhaps get bigger so that we’re able to accommodate all the dynamics in this chaotic health care system.”
Ostrowsky said survival will depend on high quality care and efficiency and larger institutions have an easier time achieving that. “Size and scope will in fact support efficiency,” he said. “Without that it’s very difficult to stay in operation so I think what you’re going to see is when the music stops there will be some providers who aren’t part of big systems and their futures will be clouded at best.”
Community hospitals have been disappearing and Ostrowsky said unaffiliated community hospitals will face large challenges to succeed. “I think it’s important to have community hospitals that direct themselves to the needs of the community,” he said. “But those community hospitals have to be part … of a network or an organization so they can get the benefit of the more complex services that are rendered in other parts of a system.”
Ostrowsky said he has been impressed with the candidates seeking positions with Barnabas Health. He said the group doesn’t have a lot of turnover, which could be partly because of the weak economic situation. He said that he’s also satisfied with the quality of New Jersey applicants, though he admitted that many physicians decide to leave the Garden State to pursue other opportunities. Below the physician level, Ostrowsky said he believes Barnabas Health has “the cream of the crop” available.
The reasons physicians leave New Jersey vary and include the malpractice environment and the high cost of living, Ostrowsky explained. He said New Jersey is in danger of losing some of the best physicians.
“If you pick up any of the journals advertising positions, they always lead with how wonderful it is to be on the west coast of Florida or how beautiful it is in San Diego. The truth of the matter is we don’t do our own advertising as a state,” Ostrowsky said. “We haven’t yet effectively convinced these highly trained new professionals to stay here and I think we’re going to suffer in the long run if we don’t change it.”
Barnabas Health is evaluating opportunities to make its system bigger, according to Ostrowsky. He said most of the providers in New Jersey are doing the same. “We’re all looking for the same solution — a size and scope that allow us to be efficient and incorporate all the services that are necessary,” he said. “These are deals that are dramatic sometimes and people love to talk about them. But unless they’re well planned and effectively executed, you’ll never get the benefit.”
When asked if Barnabas Health will be announcing an expansion soon, Ostrowsky said, “We might see something in the not too distant future from us.”