What does future hold for RWJBH, Trinitas as talks continue?

Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth. (File photo)

RWJBarnabas Health and Trinitas Regional Medical Center have been in talks to form a yet-undecided relationship — ranging from affiliation to merger — since late last year.

Both confirmed to ROI-NJ last year and again Thursday that the talks have been ongoing, and would strengthen an existing partnership the two entities currently have.

Trinitas CEO Gary Horan spoke with ROI-NJ on Friday and said the next few months will determine what type of relationship is agreed upon, but he anticipates staying on for at least the duration of any transition, if not longer.

“I could see myself continuing on … I think they would value my opinions, and Trinitas is not a small organization, it’s a relatively large, complex organization, and I think they would want some continuity for a period of time,” Horan said.

“I would certainly amenable to whatever role would be appropriate to make our relationship work.”

RWJBH CEO Barry Ostrowsky has previously told ROI-NJ he is not interested in growing for the sake of growing the organization, but is also in talks with other single-hospital entities in the state.

In a statement Thursday, Ostrowsky said: “RWJBarnabas Health and Trinitas Regional Medical Center have signed an exploratory agreement. We continue to conduct research and hold discussions.  There could be a formal announcement within the next 90 days.”

Horan said the company is negotiating from a position of strength, with both a strong balance sheet and maintained credit ratings from Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s.

“Subsidies are important for us to be able to do that, but by no way are we hanging by our fingernails,” Horan said.

“It has to do with what is best for the institution in the future, and certainly it’s going to be more difficult for independent hospitals to be able to function in a very efficient way without some kind of bigger exposure to services and depth, particularly when it comes to clinical integration.”

In particular, independent hospitals have found it hard to negotiate for greater reimbursement with insurers.

Trinitas currently relies about 35 percent on Medicaid, and about 12 percent on commercial payors.

“There is no question about that,” Horan said. “We need to be able to have negotiating influence with insurers, and being independent it makes it more difficult for that.”

When asked if the pursuit of a Trauma II designation has played a role in the talks, Horan said it remains a priority for Trinitas and would be beneficial for the residents of eastern Union County and for RWJBH as well.

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