Newly named president, CEO calls Meritus 'exciting organization'

February 15, 2011|By DON AINES |
  • Joseph P. Ross has been named the new president and chief executive officer of Meritus Health and all of its business components, including Meritus Medical Center.
Submitted photo

HAGERSTOWN — Managing change will be among the priorities for Joseph P. Ross, who  brings decades of health care administrative experience to the position of president and CEO of Meritus Health.

Ross, currently president and CEO of Shore Health System of Maryland in Easton, was named Tuesday to lead Meritus Health, a position he will assume April 4. James P. Hamill will retire later this year after a decade as CEO and president of Washington County Health System, now known as Meritus Health.

"I've been at Shore 16 years and realized that, given that I'm 56, if I was going to make a move, this was the right time to do it," Ross said Tuesday. "It's a very exciting organization with the opening of the new medical center and the rapid growth," he said.

The $294 million Meritus Medical Center opened in December and recently announced that high patient volumes have prompted its first expansion, the addition of an 11-bed unit to bring the total to 278 beds. Determining what changes might be needed at the medical center and other business components of Meritus Health will be among the first items on his agenda, he said.

"My early work will be to do the assessments and work with the physician community, the board of directors and staff," Ross said.

Maintaining existing collaborative relationships, such as arrangements with other hospitals to purchase goods collectively to realize savings, will be another of his missions, Ross said.

Meritus Health hired a national search firm that contacted him last fall, Ross said. He met with the search committee in early January and was offered the position about two weeks later, he said.

Ross said Shore Health had an annual budget of about $230 million and employed about 2,200 people. Meritus Health had a budget of $383.7 million in 2009-10 and employs about 3,000 people, spokeswoman Nicole Jovel said.

Managing changes within Meritus Health is one issue, but implementing federal health care reform — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — is another, Ross said.

"If you look at the macroeconomics ... we had no choice but to try something different," Ross said of the legislation.

"It has some cost issues, but if the paybacks are right, we'll make it work," Ross said.

Maryland is the only state with a Medicare waiver for hospitals, which has helped to constrain increases in health care costs compared with the rest of the nation, Ross said. The Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission reviews and approves rates hospitals can charge for services, he said.

To manage health care more efficiently and deliver the best services and outcomes to patients will require greater clinical integration, said Ross, an accredited Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

"Basically, it really relies on using information technology to create a patient profile" that health care providers can share to more efficiently treat patients.

Before coming to Shore Health, Ross was president and CEO of Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh, Wis., for eight years. He also held administrator positions at Phillipsburg (Pa.) General Hospital and Wetzel County Hospital in New Martinsville, W.Va.

Ross has a master's degree in hospital and health system administration from Xavier University in Cincinnati, and did his administrative residency and served as assistant administrator at West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown.

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