Why RWJBarnabas fired 4 New Jersey hospital execs

The pace of developing clinical programming and academics was behind the firing of the CEO and three top administrators at Livingston, N.J.-based Saint Barnabas Medical Center, the head of the hospital's parent company told NJ Advance Media.

RWJBarnabas Health, a West Orange, N.J.-based system with 35,000 employees, disclosed Sept. 7 hospital leadership team changes at Saint Barnabas, including the departures of Saint Barnabas President and CEO Stephen Zieniewicz, COO Patrick Haughey, Chief Nursing Officer Margaret Lundberg-Cook, RN, and Vice President of Ambulatory Services Céu Cirne-Neves.

The system also announced that Richard "Rick" Davis, who was promoted to CFO of the health system's Northern region in 2019, was named president and CEO of Saint Barnabas. Jennifer O'Neill, DNP, who has served as senior vice president, chief nurse executive and COO at New York City-based Hospital for Special Surgery's main campus the last two years, was named COO of Saint Barnabas.

In a statement shared with Becker's at the time, RWJBarnabas Health said, "Several leadership transitions were made … at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. Although the facility is already incredibly strong both clinically and financially, these strategic moves will better position the medical center for even greater success in the future. The organization is very grateful for the contributions of the prior leadership team and wishes them well."

Now, Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO of RWJBarnabas, has expanded on the reasoning behind the departures in an interview with NJ Advance Media.

He told the publication the medical center wasn't progressing fast enough in critical areas.

"This was really about the medical center moving in a direction, in a way, and at a pace, that I think we can do," Mr. Ostrowsky said. "And we needed a new management team to do that. There was nothing untoward. There was no scandal."

"It hurts to have to do that," he added.

Mr. Ostrowsky also told NJ Advance Media he wanted Saint Barnabas to accelerate development of clinical programming and academics, and that the medical center has the leadership team in place to do that.

Ms. Cirne-Neves declined to comment when reached by the publication, and its attempts to reach the other three leaders who left were not successful.

Access the report here.  

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