Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

For Hospital Week, a Profound Appreciation

I’ve worked in healthcare for most of my career, but recently I viewed my local hospital from a new perspective – as a patient during a 13-day hospital stay.

It was scary and sometimes confusing. But it was also profound. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for a group of compassionate caregivers, a team of skilled physicians and all of the employees, from food service workers to the housekeeping team who always had a kind word. I also was amazed by my firsthand view of modern medical technology – and very, very appreciative that it’s here for us in New Jersey hospitals.

As we celebrate National Hospital Week this week (May 8-14), I hope you’ll join me in saying thank you to our hospital professionals who are there to care for us 24-hours a day, every day of the year. New Jersey is fortunate to have 111 acute care and specialty hospitals that employ 141,000 dedicated individuals.

I know our healthcare system isn’t perfect. But it sure is reassuring to me, and families across our state, to know that our community hospitals are always there for us.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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4 Reasons to Feel Good About Healthcare in the Garden State

There’s plenty of reason to feel good about the state of your healthcare here in New Jersey. The accolades have been pouring in in recent weeks:

  • New Jersey hospitals once again ranked 5th best nationwide for patient safety, according to the semi-annual Hospital Safety Score released by the Leapfrog Group in October.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported this week that an estimated 87,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and nearly $20 billion in healthcare costs were saved as a result of a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2014. During this same period, New Jersey hospitals, working together with NJHA under the Partnership for Patients-NJ initiative, achieved measurable reductions in hospital-acquired conditions. That work averted 13,730 cases of patient harm and achieved $120 million in healthcare cost savings over the project’s initial three years.
  • Also this week comes news that New Jersey has an impressive four hospitals on the Leapfrog Group’s list of the Top Hospitals of 2015 list. Only 98 of the 1,600 U.S. hospitals that submit data to Leapfrog make the list. How impressive is New Jersey’s showing? Consider that our neighbors in New York didn’t have any hospitals on the list, and Pennsylvania had one. Congratulations to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Virtua Marlton and Virtua Voorhees.
  • And among the nation’s nursing homes, New Jersey facilities exceed the national average with 75 percent of our facilities scoring three stars or more on the national Nursing Home Compare’s 5-star rating system.

We’re proud to be among such great company, but even more proud to provide New Jersey residents with some of the nation’s finest healthcare services. 

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

Human Services Commissioner Jen Velez: A Passion for Public Service

The State of New Jersey is saying farewell to a wonderful public servant, with Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez announcing today that she will step down from the post she has held for eight years. Human Services oversees the state’s Medicaid program and many other important health and social service programs. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jen on many important issues, and I know she will be long respected for her hard work and commitment to the Department and – more importantly – to the disadvantaged residents of our state.

Too often people outside of state government throw stones at those in public positions, without fully understanding the constraints of state rules and regulations. I know, having served in state government myself. But Jen Velez is truly one of the most dedicated public servants I have ever met. I think her position is one of the toughest jobs in Trenton, and she has done it with integrity and with a true passion for service. Even though her home is far from Trenton, she put in many late nights trying to manage one of the largest departments in state government.  She “gets it” from every level.  She understands the impediments to making things happen and has always gone the extra mile to help the people who rely on DHS. She truly cared about every aspect of her job and her department, and all of the people out there served by DHS.  She will certainly be missed in Trenton, but I am very much looking forward to continue working with Jen in her new role at Barnabas Health.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Hire a Veteran and Your Workplace Will Benefit

I’ve worked in a number of different places and have even been the boss at a few of them. And I can tell you that few things have brought more “feel-good” spirit to a workplace than NJHA’s hiring of 25 U.S. veterans last year.

These smart and dedicated men and women have served our country at home and abroad. And today, they’re on a new mission as “Certified Application Counselors.” Their job is to help uninsured New Jerseyans navigate the healthcare marketplace and sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

It is a job they have taken on with energy, commitment, good humor and a great esprit de corps. They really care about this mission, but most importantly, they really care about the people they are helping. One of our CACs helped a woman who was ready to halt her cancer treatments because she had lost her health insurance; he quickly guided her through the online Health Insurance Marketplace and helped her find coverage under another plan. Several of our CACs were on the ground in Atlantic City to assist the thousands of casino workers who lost their jobs.

All told, our CACs have reached nearly 60,000 New Jerseyans in the past year with information on their health insurance options. They’re now gearing up for Nov. 15 – the start of the ACA’s next open enrollment period.

For the rest of us working at NJHA, this program has made us feel good, plain and simple. We’ve helped people access healthcare. We’ve supported our veterans. And we’ve welcomed some wonderful new co-workers like: 

  • Norm Glover of East Windsor, who served in Vietnam and who remains active with the Military Order of the Purple Heart
  • Piertus Esperience of North Brunswick, who not only served two tours in Iraq with the Marines but also served a tour in Afghanistan with the Army. He and his wife recently welcomed their second child.
  • Hilda DeMello of Edison, a Navy veteran who now serves as one of our CAC team leaders.
  • John Rodriguez of Bayonne, an Army veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • And Fred Kariuki of Phillipsburg, who grew up in Kenya and later became a U.S. citizen and joined the Air Force. He continues to serve in critical missions as a member of the Air Force Reserves.

I would love to list each one of our CACs but suffice to say that every one of our veterans has a legacy of service.

NJHA is fortunate to have these dedicated individuals on our side, not just on Veterans Day but every day. So to them and to all the veterans out there, thank you for your service.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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Here’s How We’re Preparing for Ebola

Let me take an opportunity to share some thoughts on Ebola. It’s on all of our minds – and certainly has been at the top of every newscast. The nation is worried.

But I would urge everyone to take a deep breath and keep some perspective. The flu kills more than 20,000 people in the United States in an average year – about four times more than the number of Ebola deaths in this outbreak. I’m only noting those numbers to make the case that worrying about Ebola is understandable, but panicking about it is not.

NJHA and New Jersey’s hospitals have been gearing up for weeks as they have watched Ebola spread in West Africa. Fortunately, New Jersey has no known cases of Ebola at this time.

Ebola is not an airborne disease. It can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual. And an individual with Ebola isn’t contagious unless that person is showing symptoms. But Ebola, especially in its advanced stages, can be very contagious in direct contact situations. That’s why isolation precautions and personal protection for healthcare workers is so important.

Our hospitals are on high alert to watch for a potential Ebola case that could come to their facilities and to take immediate action to isolate that individual and implement full precautions to protect their staffs and their communities.

To that end, our hospitals have reviewed all appropriate policies and protocols; identified areas in the hospital that would be used for patient isolation; inventoried supplies including personal protective equipment for employees; and provided training and best practices to staff on patient identification, isolation, infection prevention and use of protective suits.

In addition, NJHA has joined with the state Department of Health in strongly encouraging all New Jersey hospitals to conduct Ebola drills in their emergency departments by Oct. 17. We have been in near-constant contact with the state’s public health officials since Ebola arrived in our country, and we appreciate that access and collaboration. In an emergency response, it’s important that we’re all working from the same playbook in protecting our patients, our healthcare workers and our broader communities.

And speaking of healthcare workers, I want to send a most heartfelt thank you to the nurses, physicians, laboratory workers, EMS personnel and others who have chosen a career of caring for others – even if that care could place them in harm’s way. Not only in this situation, but every day, they put their well-being at risk for all of us.

This Ebola situation is changing every day, every hour in fact. But each new development helps our healthcare system improve its preparedness. Public health officials have learned a great deal from the situation in Dallas, and lessons learned from that initial experience will be used to make our response better – and safer – for both our patients and our staff.  Every acute care hospital in the state has the responsibility to be prepared to care for an individual with this virus – and that’s a role we take very seriously.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

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