Forward-thinking: Trinitas joining RWJBH is strong fit for hospitals, community

Barry Ostrowsky, left, and Gary Horan at the announcement. (File photo)

It’s easy to describe the merger of Trinitas Regional Medical Center into the RWJBarnabas Health system with a look to the past.

The leaders — Barry Ostrowsky at RWJBH; Gary Horan at Trinitas — have known and respected each other for years.

The deal, like all hospital mergers, was filled with years of meetings, proposals and regulatory approvals.

And the merger itself — which is having a celebratory announcement Thursday — actually is nearly a week old. Trinitas technically joined the RWJBH system Jan. 1.

But, health care being what it is today — a more-appreciated-than-ever lifesaving sector during this pandemic — makes Horan thrilled for the future of care in Elizabeth and the surrounding areas.

  • He points to an integration of digital health records, which will give Trinitas doctors more tools at their disposal for treating the underserved communities they assist;
  • He notes how Trinitas, now a part of the largest academic and research health system in the state, will be able to participate in research protocols to be on the cutting edge of health care;
  • He highlights how the Trinitas School of Nursing, a program it offers in a cooperative education program with Union County College, will only get bigger and better — helping not only Trinitas, but aiding the staffing shortage of the RWJBH system;
  • And, most of all, he takes pride in the fact that Trinitas, a system Horan personally has led to much acclaim and success, will be able to do all of this while maintaining its identity, both as a Catholic hospital and with the Trinitas name.

“This is the culmination of years of preparation and due diligence that, at times, seemed endless,” Horan said. “But to get to this point — and see all of the incredible benefits — is very exciting for Trinitas and our community.”

Ostrowsky, who is well versed in bringing hospitals into the RWJBarnabas Health system, said this merger appears to be as seamless a fit as any he has been overseen.

“Gary and I have known each other a long time, but it’s more than that,” he said. “The cultures of the institutions are the same; we focus on what’s best for the community.

“I’ve been to the Trinitas site multiple times. And, each time, I come out of there further incentivized to do the right things for the community. You just feel it, it’s palpable. That is Gary’s leadership.

“Gary has been an incredible leader for urban health care — right at the top of the list. And he’s made it a commitment of that institution to ensure that the community will benefit from its existence.”

The connection, Ostrowsky said, goes deeper than just with the leaders.

“I recently was at a meeting of the department directors, and you could see everybody understanding the power of the relationship, as it translates into the mission of Trinitas,” he said. “That is the key in mergers.

“But, more so, it feels right. We talk the same way. And I think, together — and I know this sounds cliché, but — together, this will add great benefit to either one of us individually doing that which we want to do on our missions.”

Horan returns the compliment. It was Ostrowsky’s leadership on key issues that assured him this was the right move.

“We were looking around for years,” he said. “We knew we had to do something to affiliate or merge — and it soon became clear that the RWJBarnabas system was a system that we would be most comfortable with.

“They have a history of working extremely well in urban environments. They work very well with the underserved and undocumented residents of their areas. That’s a very similar mission to what we have. And the fact that they have embraced us maintaining our Catholic identity is very important, because the mission is also similar.”

It’s the big-picture leadership, Horan said.

“I know the vision of Barry, as the leader of that organization, as it pertains to the addressing the social determinants of health,” he said. “He just doesn’t talk about it, he does it. He does it with workforce enhancements with food distribution and with housing — they put their money where their mouth is.

“And their focus on diversity, inclusion and equity. They were ahead of the game on it, it’s not something that they have thought about at the last minute just to be in vogue. They take it very seriously. And they have taken steps to ensure that their system is part of that effort.”