Ocean Medical Center

Putting Pain to Rest

A personal trainer finds surgical relief for chronic hip pain.

For the past six years, Sea Girt resident David Pletzner had known that he needed hip replacement surgery. In August 2016, he decided to take action.

While body surfing with a friend, David emerged from the water and limped as he made his way up the beach. Noticing David struggling, his friend asked why he continued to live in pain.

The question made David realize that his quality of life was suffering and it was time to do something. One week later, he was preparing for surgery at Hackensack Meridian Health Ocean Medical Center.


From Gym to Operating Room

David is a personal trainer at his own fitness company. One of his clients there is Roy Mittman, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon, affiliated with Ocean. Dr. Mittman introduced David to Joel Fechisin, M.D., also an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Ocean.

“I visited David for help with my atrocious golf game and we started talking about his ongoing hip pains,” Dr. Fechisin recalls. “He felt that his activities of daily living were being compromised because of pain. He had already been through various forms of physical therapy and low-impact exercise without much success.”

Previous medical visits had revealed that David’s hip pain was caused by osteoarthritis—a chronic condition in which the cartilage between joints breaks down. Although David had been through numerous surgical procedures in the past due to the wear and tear from his physically active lifestyle, he kept putting off joint replacement, knowing it would mean time away from work. “The longer I waited, the less I wanted to go through another procedure,” he says.

Instead, David tried to control his pain with low-dose anti-inflammatory medication, which did not provide much relief. Then, on Dr. Fechisin’s recommendation, he tried corticosteroid injections in the joint. Those initially helped with his pain, but were unable to provide lasting relief.

After the body surfing experience, David talked with Dr. Fechisin about joint replacement—the risks, benefits and types of approaches commonly used. He was finally ready for surgery.

In Good Hands

When David entered the hospital for surgery, he was impressed by every person involved in his care. Each team member, from the registration attendant to surgery nurses, transport, food services, housekeeping and physical therapists, created a comfortable environment for David’s healing and made his stay pleasant.

“I always knew I was in good hands and well cared for. Although each and every person told me, ‘I am just doing my job,’ it was so much more than that,” says David.

Dr. Fechisin performed a posterior approach hip replacement, meaning that Dr. Fechisin performed David’s surgery with David lying on his side.

“The surgery involved replacing both the acetabulum and the femoral head of the hip joint—the hip bone’s ball and socket—with titanium and plastic components,” says Dr. Fechisin. “Since David is a very tall individual and has a large bone structure, he required some of the largest implants that are made. His surgery was the first case of the day and he was up and walking with physical therapy later that afternoon.”

“David was a pleasure to treat and I am happy to say that we are friends outside of my orthopedic practice,” Dr. Fechisin adds. “He was even in attendance at my wedding this past fall.”

Improved Quality of Life

After just a few days in the hospital, David was discharged. Meridian At Home provided physical and occupational therapy in the comfort of his own home during the first two weeks of his recovery. His rehabilitation included a combination of strengthening and range-of-motion exercises.

Today, David is doing well and back to personal training. He wishes he’d had hip surgery sooner.

“If you’re at the point where the pain is altering your life and the doctors are telling you that you need surgery, go and get it. There is no reason for having such poor quality of life and living in pain,” says David.

President’s Message

The backbone of our organization has always been people – our team members, physicians and supporters. Our success is based upon a shared purpose, trust and open communication, all of which contributed to great accomplishments over the past year.

Our team’s dedication is evident in our continued high team member engagement scores, which were recognized in November when Ocean Medical Center received the Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for reaching the 95th percentile in team member engagement. Knowing that we all take such tremendous pride in our workplace ethic and professional calling is a wonderful thing.

I’m also especially proud of the work we’ve accomplished to establish a Graduate Medical Education committee. Creating an Academic Affairs Office, appointing program directors, and successfully submitting applications for Psychiatry, Family Residency and Internal Medicine programs has us well on our way to becoming a teaching hospital.

As the scope and face of health care changes, I could not be more excited about the future of Ocean Medical Center. We are redefining traditional health care, while being mindful of our commitment to optimize exceptional experiences for every patient, every time. I look forward to carrying on the momentum of the past year and continuing Ocean’s path toward greatness.

Regional President

Endorsements from Business and Industry Leaders

Transparency honors the patient, earns trust and challenges us to be the best we can be. It also garners recognition of quality and excellence from industry leaders and third-party endorsers. One of the pinnacle recognitions in 2016 was U.S. News & World Report ranking Ocean Medical Center #8 in New Jersey as one of the best regional hospitals and #18 in the New York Metro Area. Additional recognition was noted as a high-performing hospital in five types of care – heart failure, COPD, colon cancer surgery, hip replacement and knee replacement.

Another notable accomplishment was our hospital re-accreditation by The Joint Commission, and three deficiency-free, disease-specific accreditations for stroke, joint replacement and palliative care. We were designated a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology – the first hospital in Ocean County to earn this elite status. We achieved strong, stable financial performance with a record-setting 1,000 joint replacements, and celebrated a four-star rating from Medicare.

Building Hope for Cancer Care
Hematologist and Oncologist Peter Mencel, M.D. is one of the many members of the interdisciplinary team who shares a level of personal concern and compassion with each individual patient.

Perhaps the most visible accomplishment of 2016 was the opening of Ocean’s new cancer care center. Not only is it a tremendous resource for our physicians and care providers, but it provides our community members with access to a phenomenal setting, state-of-the-art technology and talented expertise, all close to home.

In addition to the new facilities and technology, Ocean expanded its women’s health and breast cancer surgical programs with the recruitment of Yolanda R. Tammaro, M.D. She is fellowship trained and board certified in Breast Surgical Oncology, providing the team at Ocean Medical Center with additional expertise and resources for local community members. We also enhanced access to exceptional cancer care services with the physicians of Atlantic Hematology Oncology Associates joining Meridian Medical Group. These well-established, fellowship-trained and board-certified physicians expanded access to care by seeing patients at the new cancer center located at Hackensack Meridian Health Village at Jackson.

A Positive Shift in Patient Progression

We made great progress in 2016 in improving patient progression, which required the attention of all caregivers. A dedicated Patient Progression Committee led this charge and had significant impact. Improvement was noted in a decrease in divert hours from 533 to 208; a decrease in the decision-to-admit to arrival-on-the-floor from 246 to 174 minutes; a decrease in ambulance pick-up delays from 13 percent to 4.4 percent; and a decrease in left-without-treatment from 915 to 736 cases. These outcomes demonstrate a significant improvement in the throughput of patients within and outside of our organization.

Creating a Revolutionary Patient Care Unit
Team members, physicians and special guests were treated to a sneak peek of the third floor shell space as a kick-off to construction. Mock patient rooms and a nursing station helped guests visualize how the blueprint designs would come to life. The stunning new unit is slated to open in September.

Foresight has always been a key attribute of our organization, and network-level support made it possible for Ocean to begin building out the third-floor shell above the new Emergency Department. Construction began last fall for what will be one of the most innovative, patient-centric nursing units in the region. This will fulfill Ocean’s vision for a 36,000-square-foot, 36 private room inpatient floor that will be dedicated to guests having elective surgery, such as joint replacement patients, and provide an experience unlike many others.

This will fulfill Ocean’s vision for a 36,000-square-foot, 36 private room inpatient floor that will be dedicated to guests having elective surgery, such as joint replacement patients, and provide an experience unlike many others.

Leadership Team

Regional President

Vito Buccellato, MPA, LNHA
Chief Operating Officer

Vincent Vivona, D.O., J.D.
Vice President, Clinical Effectiveness

Ellen Angelo, DNP, MSN, R.N.,CCRN
Vice President of Nursing & Chief Nurse Executive

Cindy Lantz, RN, MPA
Vice President, Physician Development

Marie Foley-Danecker, MSN, RN, CCRN, NE-BC
Senior Manager, Patient Services

Ken Souchek, PT, DPT
Senior Manager, Rehab Services and Orthopedics

Medical Staff Leadership

Cornelius Gallagher, M.D.

Thomas Lake, M.D.
Vice President

Walter Wynkoop, M.D.

Michael Rothberg, M.D.