Virtua and Lourdes: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

July marks one-year anniversary of two South Jersey health systems becoming one 

One year ago, Virtua Health assumed ownership of Lourdes Health System, a transaction that reshaped health care in South Jersey. Although the subsequent months presented unforeseeable challenges and changes to the health care industry – and all aspects of life – the intention of being “better two-gether” has proven its validity time and time again.

The joining of the two not-for-profit organizations created South Jersey’s largest health system, with 14,000 colleagues, nearly 3,000 affiliated doctors and other clinicians, five hospitals, and more than 280 other care locations.  

“We knew from the start that the combined strengths of Virtua and Lourdes would result in more comprehensive and coordinated care for the people we serve,” said Dennis W. Pullin, FACHE, president and CEO of Virtua Health. “What we could not have known is that, eight months later, our coming together would prove essential to guiding our community through an unprecedented public health crisis.” 

“Fortunately, our newly joined resources allowed us to care for many of the people in South Jersey who required treatment or hospitalization because of COVID-19,” said Lourdes’ former president and CEO, Reginald “Reg” Blaber, MD, MBA, FACC – who is now executive vice president and chief clinical officer at Virtua Health. 

“We were also able to set up community testing centers for COVID-19 in Camden and Burlington counties thanks to our shared capabilities,” he added.

Other major achievements over the past year include:

  • New Frontiers: Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital earned a spot on Watson Health’s list of 2020 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals in the nation. In fall 2019, the Virtua cardiology team performed two first-of-their-kind surgeries, including a successful mitral valve replacement on a pregnant woman. 

  • New Brand: In October 2019, Virtua Health introduced a new, modern brand, which included a new logo, advertising campaign, and a refreshed look and feel for all marketing and communications. Part of the new brand includes the positioning strategy “Here for Good,” and the team-building, mission-based “Culture of We” among Virtua colleagues. 

  • New Hope: In April 2020, Virtua performed the first and second convalescent plasma therapies to COVID-19 patients in New Jersey (and among the first 10 in the country). Both individuals recovered and, in time, returned home to their respective families.

  • New Technology: Due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures, Virtua quickly expanded its telemedicine portfolio and conducted more than 100,000 remote consultations and appointments in the first half of 2020.

Looking ahead, Virtua Health is reinvesting in its physical infrastructure through major renovations at two former Lourdes hospitals: Virtua Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden and Virtua Willingboro Hospital. These locations will also implement Virtua’s electronic medical records system, which will result in greater coordination among Virtua care teams.

Virtua is building new facilities, including South Jersey’s first proton therapy center – for advanced cancer treatment – in partnership with Penn Medicine. In addition, Virtua is expanding its focus on social determinants of health by launching more initiatives to address behavioral health, transportation needs, and food insecurity. 

“Virtua Health has been part of the framework of South Jersey for more than a century, albeit under different names,” Pullin said. “As we look to the future, we must uphold our legacy of being a true partner in health. This means identifying and acting upon opportunities to support those in our community who have been overlooked or marginalized in the past, and making our neighborhoods safe and healthy places to call home.”

 
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