One-third of New Jersey's hospitals finished 2011 with an operating loss, according to a just-released report from the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Virtua Hospital, Berlin NJ (Virtua)

Hospitals saw a slight increase overall in operating margins (3% in 2011, compared to 2.3% in 2010), but the report noted "those operation efficiencies were washed away by a volatile stock market and required support of pension programs." The total margin, including non-operating activity such as investment income and employee pension contributions, dipped from 4.7% in 2010 to 0.3% last year.

"New Jersey hospitals continue to face a delicate balancing act between their mission and their margins," said NJHA President and CEO Betsy Ryan.

The report said New Jersey's numbers lag behind the rest of the country.

Sean Hopkins, senior vice president of health economic at NJHA, said New Jersey's hospitals will have to remain focused and creative in efforts keep delivering high-quality care in a cost-effective manner.

"The pressure needle on hospital revenues is still pointing down for the foreseeable future," Hopkins said.