"It's a big responsibility, one I don't take lightly, [but] I think I can impact Staten Island University Hospital more at a higher level," Ferreri said last week. (Staten Island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel)
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - The head of Staten Island University Hospital's new promotion won't merely advance his career, it could also help steer additional health-care services and resources to the borough.
As executive director of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System's western region, Anthony C. Ferreri will report directly to the system's chief operating officer, Mark J. Solazzo.
Ferreri, who will remain University Hospital's president and chief executive officer, said his new role will better position him -- and the hospital -- within the North Shore-LIJ system.
"It's a big responsibility, one I don't take lightly, [but] I think I can impact Staten Island University Hospital more at a higher level," Ferreri said last week during an interview in his office at University Hospital's Ocean Breeze campus.
"When strategic decisions are made at the system level, there's someone at the table whose roots are in the community. We want to make sure Staten Island has a voice at the table."
Health care professionals face a series of daunting challenges in the coming months after the Health Care Reform Act takes effect. Hospitals are wary of the potential financial impact, as significant changes and cuts are anticipated in provider payments for patient-care services.
"As we deal with a whole new environment of health care and negotiate contracts, I'll be at the table," said Ferreri. "I strongly believe this move is very good for the people of Staten Island."
Ferreri, 62, is one of three regional executive directors in the North Shore-LIJ system.
Stretching across Long Island to Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island, the system is composed of 16 hospitals, including University Hospital's Ocean Breeze and Prince's Bay campuses, and nearly 400 ambulatory and physician practices. It covers a service area of 7 million people.
As executive director of the system's western region, Ferreri will oversee University Hospital's two sites, along with three Manhattan-based facilities -- Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan Eye Ear & Throat Hospital and the Center for Comprehensive Care. The latter facility is slated to open next year on part of the property that housed the former St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village.
The Staten Island native is also responsible for other potential markets west of the Van Wyck Expressway, which centrally bisects Queens from north to south. The two other regional executive directors cover Nassau and Suffolk counties and eastern Queens.
Ferreri, who's headed University Hospital since August 2003, will keep an office here (as well as one in Manhattan) and will spend about half his time on-site.
But he said he's turning over the hospital's reins to Donna Proske. Ms. Proske, University Hospital's executive vice president and chief operating officer since 2007, was just named its executive director.
She, along with the executive directors of the system's Manhattan hospitals, will report directly to Ferreri.
"I welcome my new position as an opportunity to continue working in close collaboration with Tony Ferreri in his new position, and with clinical and civic leaders as we strive to foster healthy change in our community," said Ms. Proske in a statement.
Ms. Proske has served more than 30 years at University Hospital, beginning with her employment as a registered nurse.
An open-heart surgery and cancer survivor, Ferreri said he's fit and up to the challenge. He recently underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer, causing his hair to fall out. It's slowly growing back and he'll soon begin a round of radiation treatment.
"I feel great," he said. "The prognosis is excellent."
Ferreri said University Hospital is in good financial shape, after weathering storms early in his tenure. It is the borough's largest employer, with 6,000 workers.
In 2005 and 2008, the hospital agreed to pay more than $165 million collectively in fines to settle fraudulent billing claims, most of which pre-dated Ferreri.
"We have turned this hospital completely around. It's probably the strongest hospital in the North Shore-LIJ system today," he said, adding the system has been "a great partner" to University Hospital.
Asked to name his proudest accomplishments, Ferreri cited the construction of the $39 million Elizabeth A. Connelly Emergency and Trauma Center, which opened in June 2009 and more than tripled the size of the emergency room at the Ocean Breeze campus.
Other achievements include erecting the Regina McGinn Education Center at the Ocean Breeze site, selling the former Doctors' Hospital in Concord to the city Education Department to build a public school on the site and expanding services, medical subspecialties and the robotics program. He also pointed to the hospital's garnering dozens of quality-achievement awards over the years and earning the support of community.
University Hospital is one of the major teaching hospitals in New York, with 400 medical students rotating through it annually, said Ferreri. The hospital, he said, is helping train the doctors who will care for the borough's patients well into the future.
Ferreri is also pleased with the hospital's improved relations with Richmond University Medical Center, West Brighton.
When he became chairman a decade ago, the borough's two hospital systems had an intensely competitive, if not adversarial, relationship.
Both sides have worked hard since to find common ground.
"My time here has been, and will continue to be, a very cooperative relationship with RUMC," said Ferreri. "It's something we hadn't seen as much in the past," he said.
Still, he says, there much work to be done.
Staten Island, he said, has the highest rate of lung disease, heart disease and cancer among the five boroughs.
Besides increasing services and medical subspecialties, the hospital and its physicians have stressed the need for annual check-ups and screenings, such as colonoscopies, to nip potential medical problems in the bud.
"If we can zero in on wellness in this community, we can reduce those numbers," said Ferreri. "If we get the community to continue to get screenings, watch their diets, continue to work with smoking cessation, we can literally make people healthier on Staten Island. I think I can have an impact on that at a higher level at North Shore-LIJ."