Report: University Hospital lacking vision, leadership

Newark's University Hospital suffers from a failure in leadership, insufficient oversight and a lack of strategic planning, according to a report released Monday.

The monitor's report on the public hospital was commissioned by Gov. Phil Murphy last summer after its bond rating was downgraded and a nonprofit watchdog group gave it a failing grade for safety practices.

The report's release came shortly after the resignation last week of hospital CEO John Kastanis. The hospital has come under scrutiny recently for the deaths of three infants possibly associated with a bacterial infection.

A message was left at the hospital Monday seeking comment.

The hospital was formerly part of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Two-thirds of its patients self-pay or pay through charity or Medicaid, the highest rate in the state, the report found.

Since separating from UMDNJ five years ago, it "has not leveraged its unique position to focus on developing a culture of high performance," monitor Judith Persichilli concluded.

In July, Fitch Ratings gave the hospital's bond rating a BB-minus, a four-level downgrade. The nonprofit watchdog group Leapfrog gave an "F'' grade to the hospital's safety practices, one of an estimated 30 hospitals nationwide to receive that grade and the only hospital in New Jersey.

The monitor's report found a lack of leadership focus on creating a vision for the hospital; an absence of a strategic plan; an organizational culture not focused on pursuing excellence and inadequate board oversight.

For example, a community oversight board hasn't posted minutes since December 2015 and hasn't posted a schedule since February 2016, the report found. Committee members said meetings are sometimes not held or are cancelled with little notice.

The report also recommended opening an urgent care center on-site to relieve overcrowding at the hospital's emergency room, where approximately 80 percent of admissions are handled.