Former University Hospital board member to politicians: Don't point fingers — roll up your sleeves and help

Instead of blaming hospital officials for the recent bacterial outbreak and infection control deficiencies discovered at Newark, N.J.-based University Hospital, state politicians "need to roll up their sleeves and get involved," Annette Catino, a former member of the hospital's board of directors, wrote in an op-ed for nj.com.

Here are four takeaways from the op-ed:

1. University Hospital experienced an outbreak of Acinetobacter baumanniibacteria in its neonatal intensive care unit this past fall, during which three premature infants died. Health officials investigated the hospital's NICU in early October and identified "major infection control deficiencies," including issues related to hand hygiene, personal protective equipment and cleanliness.

2. Ms. Catino argued state officials must look at the situation through the context of the hospital's history before jumping to any conclusions. In 2014, the state dissolved the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, a state-run health sciences institution that included University Hospital. Most of the institution's medical schools merged with New Brunswick, N.J.-based Rutgers University, and the hospital was spun out as an authority of the state.

"Four years later, it's clear neither the state nor the city of Newark understood their responsibilities in the restructure, nor did officials understand how crucial their ongoing support was to its success," she wrote in the op-ed.

3. Ms. Catino argued the state's recent investigative report into the hospital's issues does not consider the "systemic dynamics" that came from separating the hospital from the medical school or the challenges of governing the resulting organization. For example, when former CEO John Kastanis was hired, his first task was to finalize contracts for University Hospital's more than 3,000 employees who were represented by seven different unions — "no small challenge for a new CEO," Ms. Catino wrote.

4. She claimed state officials did not offer enough support to help the hospital thrive during the past four years, but encouraged them to help now.

"There is a lot of work to be done at University Hospital and the restructure proved more complicated than anyone realized," Ms. Catino concluded. "But that doesn't free politicians who know little or nothing about the operation and governance of an academic urban hospital to sit on the sidelines, criticize and point the finger of blame. Rather, they need to roll up their sleeves and get involved."

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