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St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse selects new president

Tom Magnarelli
St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse.

St. Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse has selected a new president and CEO for the health center. It comes at an uncertain time for the healthcare industry.

Leslie Paul Luke said he has experience with hospitals going through significant transitions. St. Joseph’s joined Trinity Health in 2015, one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in the country. And with threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act, more could be changing for the hospital and healthcare in general very soon.

Credit St. Joseph's Hospital
St. Joseph's Hospital
Leslie Paul Luke.

"I’m going to try to help St. Joseph’s to become more nimble and more responsive to changing market conditions because organizations that can do that going forward are going to do perfectly fine, it’s organizations that can’t adjust that are going to have issues," Luke said. "With the ACA and all that has been going on in healthcare right now, most hospitals are struggling as far as how to adjust, how to balance the margin and mission. For St. Joseph's, I think I bring a lot of experience in stabilizing and working towards growth." 

And St. Joseph’s Hospital has had its own issues in recent years. It has been losing money for the past three years, including a loss of $13 million in 2016.

"It is not at a critical point," Luke said. "It is something one should be concerned about and we definitely need to turn it around."

Luke said the answer is growth in more outpatient services.

"You have outpatient imaging centers, a lot of various wellness clinics, urgent care clinics, ambulatory surgery centers," Luke said. “It’s less expensive for insurers, less expense for government payers. Practice preventative medicine so that they don’t need to come into the hospital. When you do that you’re also improving the community as a whole so it’s kind of a win all the way around.”  

He said he also wants to improve the quality of the hospital’s emergency room.

"When you improve in your delivery of care in the emergency department, everything else kind of follows," Luke said. "You're able to admit the patient faster, if they're supposed to be admitted and provide care on the floors more effectively. You're able to see more patients."

Luke is currently the interim CEO of Tennova East, a seven hospital system in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He will be taking over for resigning St. Joseph’s President Kathryn Ruscitto next month.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.