A state monitor will oversee University Hospital in Newark in response to a series of concerns regarding the quality of care and the financial health of the institution, under an executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Given the scope of the problems found at University Hospital, these immediate actions are necessary to ensure the facility can continue providing the highest level of care to the community while it gets its fiscal house in order and improves its health care quality,’’ Murphy said.
The hospital recently received a failing grade on quality of care from the Leapfrog Group, had its bond rating downgraded four notches due to financial difficulties, and attempted to reduce the number of pediatric beds without state approval.
Judy Persichilli was appointed by to serve as monitor. Persichilli will have broad authority to assess the level of care provided by the hospital and to gain a deeper understanding of the financial affairs of the hospital.
“University Hospital provides critical services for the residents of Newark,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal “I look forward to working toward substantial improvements in the quality of care delivered, and in putting the hospital on a path to operational and financial stability.”
Mayor Ras Baraka and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. both applauded the governor's decision to appoint a monitor to the hospital.
“University Hospital is central to providing health care to Newark residents and I have been very concerned about the quality of care at the hospital, their failure to live up to the Newark Agreement negotiated when the hospital was created, their attempt to reduce the number of pediatric beds without consulting myself or the Governor, and the failing grade they received on their level of care from the Leapfrog group," Baraka said.
“The medical care provided by University Hospital is vitally important to the health and welfare of our residents from Newark, Essex County and throughout the region,” DiVincenzo said. “We applaud Gov. Murphy for taking a proactive approach and appointing a monitor to ensure patients receive the first-class care they deserve and their families expect.”
Earlier this year, University Hospital received an “F” grade in the national Leapfrog hospital patient safety report for failing to prevent infections, patient falls, surgical deficiencies, and medical errors and inadequate staff communication and responsiveness.
In July 2018, Fitch Ratings downgraded the Bonds to “BB-,” citing the Hospital’s pension liability, “weak leverage profile,” and “thin operating performance” as the basis for this lowered rating.
During the time period that University Hospital’s Certificate of Need application was pending with the state to close its Emergency Pediatric Unit (EPU) and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), the hospital took steps to dramatically reduce the number of EPU beds on site and transfer those services to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
These unauthorized steps jeopardized care for pediatric patients and threatened the hospital’s ability to provide essential health care services for surrounding communities, the governor's office said.
Ann Twomey, president of the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), praised Murphy for appointing the monitor.
"Nurses and health professionals at University Hospital have witnessed the erosion of funding for our state's only public Level 1 Trauma Center," Twomey said. "The priority of a monitor must be to provide a course for the hospital to be a viable public institution that will continue to meet the needs of the most disenfranchised and neediest in our communities served by the hospital."
Persichilli is president emerita of CHE Trinity Health and previously served as the interim president and chief executive officer of CHE Trinity Health.
Prior to that, she was president and CEO of Catholic Health East and served for eight years as CEO at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton. Persichilli is a resident of Pennington, where her husband, Anthony Persichilli, is the Democratic mayor.
Persichilli received her nursing diploma from the St. Francis Hospital School of Nursing in 1968, a bachelor of science in nursing from Rutgers University in 1976, and a master of arts in administration summa cum laude from Rider College in 1980.
Persichilli also serves on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and the Audit and Compliance Committee of the Board of Bayada Nursing Agency. She was inducted into the New Jersey State Nurses Association Hall of Honor in 2006.
University Hospital is one of three Level I trauma centers in the state. In the FY19 budget, the hospital will receive more than $43.3 million based on the number of state funded staff - about 2,900 employees. It receives another $10 million for a self-insurance Reserve Fund.