Kimball Medical Center Gets New Director

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kimballLakewood, NJ – Several years ago, questions swirled about whether Kimball Medical Center would remain a part of St. Barnabas Health Care System.

The answer is yes. Now a new senior management team led by Executive Director Dr. Thomas Bojko, former director of medical services and clinical operations at the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, is in place to move Kimball Medical Center forward.

“It is a unique opportunity,” said Bojko during a recent interview on his second day on the job at the Lakewood hospital.

Among Bojko’s ideas are new programs for pediatric, women’s and elder health care. “It is a very exciting time,” said Bojko, of Tenafly. “Being part of the largest health care system (in the state), I think, is an asset to Kimball. As the slogan says, the future is bright.”

Previously, clouds were in Kimball’s forecast.

In 2008, officials questioned whether Kimball Medical Center, hurt by several years of losses brought on by a lack of patients with private insurance to cover the cost of their treatments, would remain a part of St. Barnabas Health Care System or try to go it alone.

But after an extensive study, a decision was made to stay connected to St. Barnabas, which also includes Community Medical Center in Toms River and Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.

“We knew the obvious,” said Barry H. Ostrowsky, president and chief operating officer of St. Barnabas Health Care System. “It was a hospital that was extremely challenged financially.”

The majority of its patients received some sort of government assistance such as Medicare or Medicaid. For instance, in 2009 and 2010, only about 2 out of 10 patients had private insurance. The rest were on Medicare, Medicaid or state charity care.

It’s an issue for hospitals around New Jersey. About 40 percent of the state’s hospitals were operating at a loss at the end of last year, said Kerry McKean Kelly, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Federal and state reimbursements don’t cover hospitals’ costs, she said. “Quite frankly, the underfunding in the government programs has gotten so deep that there are not enough places for hospitals to cost shift,” Kelly said. “They cannot turn to the third-party payers anymore and expect them to make up for all of the underfunding that we’re seeing from the government payers.”

Some hospitals in New Jersey have not survived. Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center in Plainfield closed in 2008, and Kessler Memorial Hospital in Hammonton was shuttered in 2009.

Ostrowsky said the closure of Kimball Medical Center was never considered. “We want Kimball in the system,” he said.

The study concluded:

The area needed a health-care facility to provide community health services.

Kimball would always be financially challenged because of the lopsided mix of government-payor and private insurance patients. “I don’t expect that Kimball Medical Center is ever going to have any kind of significant surplus when we do the financials,” Ostrowsky said.

The hospital would have to cut costs, evaluate every service to make sure it is viable and better intergrate itself with the system’s other hospitals. In June 2009, Kimball Medical Center laid off 16 employees.

“The tactical operational plan was from our perspective the only way we could save or continue to provide care at the Kimball location,” Ostrowsky said.

St. Barnabas has since invested in Kimball, including $2.5 million in 2010. New technology was a target of the investment, such as a new medical imaging system that allows physicians to access images from their offices, and high-definition imaging equipment for operating rooms.

Bojko’s plan includes a concentration on pediatrics and health care for women and senior citizens.

“The local community in Lakewood is growing very fast,” Bojko said. With such growth, health care for the very young, mothers and elderly is important, he said.

Kimball can benefit from having a portfolio of services for those groups, he said.

Meanwhile, Kimball also can share services with its nearby St. Barnabas neighbors, Community Medical Center and Monmouth Medical Center. For instance, The Children’s Hospital at Monmouth Medical Center has pediatric subspecialists who can see patients at Kimball.

“2011 is going to be the year where we will be putting all of this together, slowly building,” Bojko said. “Come 2012, we hope to have all these (programs) on the ground and working.”

He hopes the hospital, which has 1,100 employees, will hire more staff in the next six to nine months, Bojko said. “In order to do better, the reason behind the new team was a growth plan,” he said.

The new management team represents a commitment by St. Barnabas in the hospital, he said. “It is very rare that the chief executive can come in and bring the whole team,” Bojko said.

Kimball’s previous executive director was Joe Hicks, who also was executive director of the St. Barnabas Behavioral Health Center on Route 9 in Toms River. He remains in that post.

Bojko has a background in pediatric care. Before Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s children’s hospital, he was director of critical care medicine at the Infants’ and Children’s Hospital of Brooklyn at Maimonides Medical Center.

The son of Holocaust survivors, Bojko was born in Poland and moved with his family to Israel as a child. He is fluent in Polish, Hebrew, Italian and English and has lived in Tenafly with his neurologist wife, Aviva, and two children since 1988.

Michael Mimoso is Kimball’s new chief operating officer. He previously was vice president of operations at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.

Thomas Percello is the hospital’s chief financial officer. Previously he was chief financial officer of ancillary services at Saint Barnabas Health Care System.

The hospital is searching for a vice president of medical affairs.

Lakewood Mayor Menashe Miller was excited about Kimball’s future. He called Bojko, with his reputation and new ideas about pediatrics and women’s health, “a perfect fit for Lakewood.”

“Right now, it’s going to get a world-class reputation in medicine,” Miller said.

{Asbury Park Press/}


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