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Marna (center) talked with Alan Kliger, MD, and Kathleen Quinn at the Hospital of Saint Raphael, which officially integrated with Yale New Haven Hospital in 2012.

Commitment to excellent care, close to home, a driving force behind YNHHS’ growth

The local healthcare landscape looked very different in 1979, when Marna Borgstrom became an administrative fellow at Yale New Haven Hospital. 

In the 43 years since, Yale New Haven has grown from a single hospital into a network of five hospitals, a medical foundation and dozens of specialty centers and outpatient locations stretching from Westchester County, NY, to Westerly, RI. While countless people have contributed to that growth, Marna’s leadership has been a constant through all the change. 

Yale New Haven Hospital’s modern era of expansion began in 1992, with Marna leading the planning and construction of Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. In a 2006 interview for New Haven Business Times magazine, Marna said that although she had no previous architectural or engineering education, or experience managing large projects, she worked with a great team that completed YNHCH on time and under budget. 

“I was surprised in many ways,” Marna said in the article. “It was one of those things that you don’t know you can do it, until you accomplish it.”

Three years after YNHCH’s 1993 opening, Yale New Haven Hospital partnered with Bridgeport Hospital to create Yale New Haven Health System. Greenwich Hospital joined the health system in 1998. The health system was created to help member hospitals improve care quality and access, manage costs and increase efficiencies.

Marna assumed organizational oversight of the health system’s growth when she was named YNHHS CEO in 2005. That growth included construction of Smilow Cancer Hospital; formation of Northeast Medical Group; the integration of YNHH and the former Hospital of Saint Raphael; affiliation of Lawrence + Memorial Health; and the integration of the former Milford Hospital with Bridgeport Hospital. 

YNHHS’ growth has included more than buildings and locations. Since Marna became CEO, the number of beds has increased from 1,545 to 2,681; the number of employees from 11,500 to nearly 30,000; and the number of medical staff from 3,476 to more than 7,500.

The system model has encouraged the standardization of processes, equipment and supplies at all locations. Physicians and clinical staff have researched and implemented best patient care practices across the health system. The result is the YNHHS “Care Signature” – a recognizable stamp of the highest-quality care delivered by every caregiver in the health system at every site, every day. 

The advantages of this “systemization” were highlighted during COVID-19, when YNHHS was able to acquire and more efficiently use precious personal protective equipment, medications and other supplies. As part of the Care Signature, clinicians established evidence-based “care pathways” that were used across the system to treat COVID-19 patients, leading to mortality rates that were among the lowest in the nation. 

From early March 2020 through early January 2022, YNHHS treated 19,548 COVID-19 patients, and discharged 17,634 back to their lives. As Marna said during an employee Town Hall, “This shows how being part of a system helps make care better and more effective for our patients.”