University Hospital says CEO Kastanis is returning to consulting practice

University Hospital announced Thursday its CEO and president, John Kastanis, will be leaving.

Kastanis will return to his urban teaching hospital and health care system consulting practice, according to the announcement.

University Hospital has seen a tumultuous past several weeks after three premature babies died of a bacterial infection. In October, the hospital received a “D” patient safety rating from The Leapfrog Group, after previously being rated an “F” hospital.

One insider told ROI-NJ the improved grade had to do with the leadership of Kastanis, which will likely not be completely reflected for another year in the grades.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, in a statement Thursday, countered that idea.

“My administration has repeatedly expressed its concern over the quality of care and leadership at University Hospital, seeking action,”

“Both Governor Murphy’s appointment of a monitor for the hospital in July and the tragic deaths of three premature infants there in November speak to that institution’s many issues,” Baraka said.

“President and CEO John Kastanis’s decision to step down from his positions is a move in the right direction for the hospital and the residents of the city. We believe that the hospital requires new leadership, including a new board with adequate representation of Newark residents and a new President/CEO with a history of sensitivity to community.”

The outbreak at the hospital, amid other viral outbreaks in the state, has put a spotlight back on the consistently poorly-rated hospital.

It is also among the weaker hospitals in terms of revenue. Despite being a Trauma I designated hospital, according to documents obtained by ROI-NJ, University Hospital relies almost 50 percent on Medicaid.

“I am proud to have built a talented leadership team and to have continually challenged them to improve the quality of care provided here every single day. Those of us in the building, regardless of position, know that we have started to see improvements that will benefit our community’s healthcare and position us for the future,” Kastanis said in a statement. “As the state-sponsored Level 1 Trauma Center, we are well aware of the special role we play.”

The board did not reveal plans for a new CEO and president.

“We appreciate John’s service at University Hospital and wish him well as he begins this next chapter of his career,” said board Chair Tanya Freeman. “The board will continue to work with the leadership team to drive sustainable change at the hospital.”

Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Woodbridge) released a statement late Thursday, thanking Kastanis for his work, and expressing his optimism for the new leader.

“ I look forward to a new leader who will insist on quality and excellence while advancing a vision for one of our states’ most important teaching hospitals and trauma centers,” Vitale said.

“Changes need to be made to improve operations at University Hospital so that it is better able to provide the best care possible and serve the health care needs of the community. Effective leadership is one of the essential ingredients in achieving and maintaining high quality care. It is important that top leaders set the highest standards and maintain them throughout the hospital. A standard of excellence is required in the operations of all of New Jersey’s hospitals.”