Dr. Ram Raju, the head of New York City's public hospital system, is stepping down from the helm of the challenged system effective Nov. 30.
Raju has led the embattled system for 2½ years, and will be succeeded for the time being by Stanley Brezenoff, a prior president of the 11-hospital system. During his tenure, Raju faced the challenge of providing care to 1.4 million New Yorkers and a large share of the uninsured and poor population while dealing with mounting deficits. Although the nation's largest municipally owned healthcare system received cash injections from the city, it still faced a potential $1.8 billion budget gap in 2020 as it lost out on federal funding.
Raju, who previously ran Chicago's public hospital system, unveiled an overarching plan in April to deal with these financial woes, saying the public system would focus on improving the patient experience and expanding access. The plan relied on expanding their patient base as a way to stabilize finances.
“I step down feeling certain that the work we have accomplished over the last two and half years puts us on solid ground to build a stronger, more efficient and financially sustainable public health care system,” Raju said in a statement. “I am confident that the talented new team of leaders and the new multi-year reforms we are putting in place will bring about the successful transformation of this essential organization.”
Some have questioned whether Raju's strategy would be enough to right NYC Health & Hospitals' ship. The city's Independent Budget Office alleged the system's cumulative deficit would swell to $6.1 billion from fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2020. In addition, the system was subject to takedowns in the media, including a New York Post page 1 story in May alleging dangerous conditions at the health system's Coney Island Hospital. Raju pushed back against the criticism and focused on the system's victories, such as implementing electronic health records and enhancing inmate care at Rikers Island.
“New York has a couple of newspapers not very well disposed to city government, and I'm an extension of city government,” Raju said in a Q&A with Modern Healthcare published in June. “So all my achievements will be underplayed, and my deficiencies will be magnified 10 to 20 times.”