University Hospital President and CEO John Kastanis is stepping down from his post effective Dec. 14 in the wake of several turbulent months in which the facility has been embroiled in controversy over the deaths of three premature infants that may have been caused by a bacterial infection in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Following the incidents the New Jersey Department of Health dispatched a survey team to investigate the hospital's internal notification policies. The department reported the Newark hospital’s own infection control program was not initially aware of the deaths.
One of the infants died in October and two in November, according to state health officials.
The health department first became aware of the infection Oct. 1 when two cases of Acinetobacter baumannii were confirmed in the NICU. The department ordered a Directed Plan of Correction on Oct. 25 that required the hospital to hire a full-time certified infection control practitioner to guide efforts.
Kastanis was a no-show Tuesday when the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee heard testimony from state health officials about the impact of a recent outbreak of pediatric adenovirus cases at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The committee also addressed deficiencies in infection control and subsequent actions taken by University Hospital officials.
In a statement, University Hospital said Kastanis will return to his urban teaching hospital and health care system consulting practice.
Kastanis joined the hospital in 2016 after a four-year stint as the head of Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia.
“During his time at University Hospital, Kastanis recruited a new leadership team of experienced professionals who will continue to focus on aggressively improving the quality of care provided and driving the financial health of the institution,” according to the statement.
“I am proud to have built a talented leadership team and to have continually challenged them to improve the quality of care provided here every single day. Those of us in the building, regardless of position, know that we have started to see improvements that will benefit our community’s health care and position us for the future,” said Kastanis in the statement. “As the state-sponsored Level 1 Trauma Center, we are well aware of the special role we play.”
In an effort to address quality of care and financial security issues, Gov. Phil Murphy in August signed an executive order that required the health department to appoint a monitor to oversee the hospital’s affairs. Dr. Shereef Elnahal appointed veteran health care executive Judy Persichilli to fill that role.