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Cook County health system gets new chief

Monday, March 02, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

The independent board overseeing Cook County's vast public health system took a significant step today in its effort to right a long-troubled system by hiring a new leader with experience staunching the flow of red ink at a large not-for-profit medical system and a public hospital on the West Coast.

The Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board named William Foley, 58 -- who will make $500,000 a year with the potential for a bonus of up to $50,000 -- as the system's new chief executive officer.
The board issued a list of CEO salaries at large public health systems showing Foley's salary is far from the top.

"I'm assuming the independent board has vetted him and believes that's what it will take to get the right person for this job," said Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston). "In the long run, if he does his job right, he's going to save us a lot more money than if we hire someone for less money who can't do the job right."

For five years until late 2006, Foley was CEO of Provena Health, a Catholic system that includes six hospitals. When he started, the system was operating $28 million in the red, and by 2005, it was about $31 million in the black.

In April 2007, he was working for Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group's Wellspring Partners, hired in Monterey County, Calif., to turn around its 172-bed public hospital. The $150 million-a-year operation went from losing $25 million a year to $10 million in net income.

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger last year agreed to the formation of the independent health board in exchange for Suffredin's support of a county sales tax hike.

"I think they have found a good man," Stroger said.


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