Rutgers, RWJ Barnabas consummate deal for large academic health system

The much-anticipated and, really, already underway partnership between Robert Wood Johnson and Rutgers became official Tuesday at a university board meeting, after which the principals sat for a press briefing.

“We have the kind of scale now, intellectually as well as physically, to be able to go into communities and expand our critical programs and offer this kind of accessibility that frankly, heretofore, has been difficult to do,” said RWJ Barnabas Health President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky, a member of the NJTV board, and CEO of RWJ Barnabas, which is an NJTV underwriter.

RWJ Barnabas has committed to a $1 billion investment over the next 20 years in facilities and services. Ostrowsky couldn’t say exactly where or how the bricks and mortar side of the deal will happen, but Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian Strom said the added capacity of Barnabas will have an impact on the bottom line by helping the new entity get a larger slice of grants and clinical studies.

“We can go to contract for research with pharma and NIH [National Institutes of Health] and other agencies, saying we have this huge population we can bring, a very diverse population, a major strength that New Jersey has to be able to bring to these clinical trials, [and] with that bring additional revenue,” noted Strom. “Right now there are fewer clinical trials underway in New Jersey than there are in Kentucky.”

And that would mean access to better medical and social services for patients across the state and historic new academic opportunities for medical students at Rutgers.

“The number of applications to enter medical school classes here at our schools have gone from 2,000 to 5,500. That’s with a class size of about 170,” Strom added.

This deal was agreed to last year but finalized officially Tuesday, which officials said is relatively lightning fast. Robert Barchi, the university’s president, sounded like he was talking to a Rutgers Business School class in describing the deal.

“There are very few times when two organizations of our size enter into a partnership which is truly mutually beneficial,” he said. “This is one where the synergy is on both sides.”

In the end, the proof of any academic health care system is in the care the community gets. In that respect, the benefits here are promised with fulfillment coming down the line.