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Cook County’s search for new health care chief ‘close’ to finished
The new CEO of the Cook County Health system will face a daunting job. Projecting a $187 million shortfall for 2021, the county’s health arm faces some choppy fiscal waters ahead.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Chicago Sun-Times
by Rachel Hinton

About eight months after the ouster of Cook County’s health care chief, officials said Tuesday they expect to name a couple of potential finalists for the open CEO position within the next “two to three weeks.”

“We’ve had second interviews with a number of candidates, we are evaluating the finalists, and we hope to suggest some finalists — meaning either one or two candidates — within the next two or three weeks possibly,” M. Hill Hammock, chair of the County Health Board of Directors, said during a Tuesday mid-year budget hearing. “So, we’re close.”

The new CEO of the Cook County Health system will face a daunting job.

Projecting a $187 million shortfall for 2021, the county’s health arm faces some choppy fiscal waters ahead, as do many health care providers and municipalities.

Patient fee revenue is down, some projects, including the new Provident Hospital, are on pause until a new CEO is installed, and the system has cut 70 non-union positions to save $5 million. More workers could be laid off to save even more money next year, and many of those cuts are “permanent deletions,” said Andrea Gibson, the health system’s interim chief business officer.

“These next several months and the coming years will be difficult for the entire health care industry,and we are absolutely no exception,” Debra Carey, Cook County Health’s interim CEO said. “The fiscal year 2021 budget, and likely several budgets after this, will contain a host of difficult decisions —decisions that have to be made — to ensure that Cook County Health is available for the patients who rely on us.”

The county’s $2.8 billion health care system oversees Stroger and Provident hospitals as well as health care at Cook County Jail and other county sites. The health system also conducts a managed-care program called CountyCare.

Ultimately, the board of Cook County Health will choose the system’s new leader.

The last CEO, Dr. John Jay Shannon, was shown the door in November, when the board voted not to renew his contract, the first jolt in a shake-up that also includes the firings of Ekrete Akpan, the chief financial officer at the time, and Dr. Terry Mason, the former head of the county’s Department of Public Health.

In February, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle gained more control and oversight over Stroger Hospital and the rest of the county health system, including the power to appoint a member to the system’s governing board and giving the County Board power over the top health official’s salary and job description.

Hammock said he looks forward to “establishing new leadership” for the health system.

“They will need to reestablish a team of their own and that will be a challenge as well, but we think that’s the right thing to do at the right time,” Hammock said.

Hammock said he looks forward to “establishing new leadership” for the health system.

“They will need to reestablish a team of their own and that will be a challenge as well, but we think that’s the right thing to do at the right time,” Hammock said.


 


 



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