Five Questions With: Martin E. Tursky

New president and CEO at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island talks about the challenges of health care delivery in Rhode Island. More

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Five Questions With: Martin E. Tursky

COURTESY MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
"I AM pleased to see the renewed emphasis on primary care and patient-centered medical homes. This is a particular strength for Memorial Hospital," said Martin E. Tursky, the new president and CEO at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island.
Posted 8/8/11

Martin E. Tursky, the new president and CEO at Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, has his work cut out for him. Effective Oct. 1, he will replaces Francis R. Dietz, who has served as Memorial’s president and CEO since 1966, the long-serving hospital executive in the nation.

Tursky, who was appointed Memorial’s executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2010, takes the helm at time when health care delivery in Rhode Island and hospital finances are beset by high costs and shrinking reimbursements.

Providence Business News asked Tursky to share his views of the challenges.

PBN: The economic well being for community hospitals is being challenged by a number of forces. What are the strategies you see as critical to Memorial Hospital’s survival?

TURSKY: Community hospitals are indeed facing a number of challenges in today’s shifting health care market. All hospitals in Rhode Island, and Memorial in particular, do have some concerns including federal and state Medicaid support and the new role of the insurance commissioner specifically when it comes to supporting medical education. Additional challenges are coming from national and state health care reforms that are still evolving.

Nevertheless, Memorial has a strong foundation and many tools that are enabling us to face those challenges.

As a teaching hospital for the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Memorial serves as a hub for research.

We’re building new creative partnerships, such as our clinical affiliation with Brigham and Women’s Hospital both in our Emergency Department and in our new Cardiovascular Center. Brigham and Women’s Hospital is renowned for the quality of its physicians who have performed pioneering work in the evaluation and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The sharing of resources and innovation creates opportunities to expand and enhance care options for patients.

Memorial’s entire health care system, which already provides care for patients at all stages of their lives, has an immense capacity for growth. Our health care system includes our new Cardiovascular Center, our state-of-the-art Cancer Center, our nationally recognized Stroke Center, the Center for Rehabilitation, our Center for Primary Care, the New Horizons Adult Day Health Center, Memorial Hospital’s Home Care, and primary and ambulatory care facilities in Pawtucket, Central Falls and Plainville, Mass.

Finally, the hospital is strengthened and supported by its dedicated, compassionate and highly talented staff of more than 1,300 employees that are invested in the community and committed to the hospital and its mission.

PBN: Both Lifespan and Steward Health Care, which recently purchased Landmark Medical Center, are moving towards preferred health networks for their employees. Does this represent a challenge for Memorial?

TURSKY: Many hospitals, including Memorial, have moved to preferred health networks to promote employees staying within the hospital’s health care system.

Memorial, for a number of years through its health care plan, encouraged its employees to use our health care network. That network encompasses Memorial’s comprehensive health care system.

Most of the pieces for an integrated delivery system are already in place with the physicians/hospital-specific service that includes integration of electronic communication between the hospital and physician offices.

With the initiation of the clinical affiliation partnership with Brigham and Women’s Hospital we’ve also added the highest quality tertiary services.

We are confident that Memorial’s high quality services and partnerships will continue to attract a larger market of health care consumers who desire the best care while receiving the highest level of service and satisfaction.

PBN: How important have clinical cancer trials become for Memorial? How many are you currently involved with?

TURSKY: The Cancer Center at Memorial Hospital provides a comprehensive range of services for cancer patients with a unique facility and a collaborative clinical program. We evaluate and treat all forms of cancer in adults, including prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovarian, colon and leukemia, as well as patients with immunological diseases and blood disorders. As a research and teaching hospital, we are able to offer our patients the opportunity to take advantage of emerging treatments while also shaping public policy and practices in the treatment of cancer.

Our teams are currently involved in 20 clinical cancer studies available from the National Cancer Institute, the Brown University Oncology Group and major pharmaceutical companies. Those trials involve treatment for breast cancer, lung cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, genitourinary cancer, head and neck cancer, leukemia and lymphoma in addition to symptom control such as nausea and vomiting studies, and quality of life studies.

Most of the studies are Phase II or III trials that test a new drug or a new combination of drugs in comparison to the current standard and enroll large number of people nationwide. These studies give our patients the opportunity for state-of-the-art treatment at Memorial Hospital.

PBN: Many are predicting a shortage of primary care providers in Rhode Island. What do you see as the challenges moving forward to meet this demand?

TURSKY: Frankly, I am pleased to see the renewed emphasis on primary care and patient-centered medical homes. This is a particular strength for Memorial Hospital. Primary care and patient-centered medical homes provide care where people live in a manner that is effective, convenient and continuous. Working in a collaborative manner with other primary care physicians, allied and mental health, nursing, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists and a host of others, we aim to help our patients reach the highest possible levels of health and function.

As one of the founders of Brown’s Medical School, we are pleased to serve as the school’s academic primary care program. Memorial and Brown have been at the forefront of the patient-centered medical home initiative; we have received certification as a Level III Medical Home, the highest-level designation achievable. Eighty percent of all family care doctors practicing in Rhode Island today are graduates of the Memorial’s program.

However, in this area there are challenges. While state and federal officials preach the need for primary care physicians, there are cuts in the support of medical education. Memorial and other teaching hospitals in Rhode Island require action in the General Assembly to ensure appropriate support through reimbursement.

We currently have about 70 medical residents in Brown University programs in family practice and internal medicine. The program has consistently produced highly skilled versatile graduates, and we anticipate the number of residents will increase as the emphasis on primary care grows.

PBN: In replacing Francis Dietz, who served for more than four decades, do you see this as a changing of the guard or a new direction for Memorial?

TURSKY: Over the past year and a half I have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Dietz and he has been incredibly generous in sharing his great depth of experience and institutional knowledge. Thanks to Mr. Dietz, Memorial’s Board of Trustees and the hospital’s dedicated staff, there is a strong foundation and clear direction for the hospital.

Memorial has a long history of optimizing resources and reinvesting in the hospital system. By reinvesting in personnel, infrastructure and programs, we are able to create momentum. We are working to anticipate changes, and get the hundreds or even thousands of variables moving in the right direction at the right time in the shifting market.

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