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Cook County hospitals interim CEO had problems in Dallas

Friday, January 24, 2014
Chicago Tribune
by John Byrne

The Cook County hospital board on Friday named an interim CEO who was a top executive at a Dallas hospital system when the federal government determined it had problems that were a “serious threat to patient health and safety.”

But county Health and Hospital System leaders said Dr. John Jay Shannon’s time in Texas did not give them pause about tapping him to take over when Dr. Ramanathan Raju leaves the job to take over running the New York City public health network under Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

Shannon, 53, has been working since early last year as the county health system’s chief of clinical integration, a position that involved overseeing operations at Stroger Hospital and ensuring quality and patient safety throughout the system.

Before that, Shannon served in various jobs at Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, including a stint as vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer. While he was there, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in September 2011 determined Parkland Memorial Hospital had “deficiencies that represent an immediate and serious threat to patient health and safety.”Shannon worked at Cook County Hospital from 1990 to 2007 before going to Parkland. Raju has defended bringing him back to help with a reorganization of the Cook County health system after the federal criticism of Parkland in part by making the case Shannon would be serving under him.

Now Shannon will be the top official in the county hospital system, at least temporarily. But David Carvalho, chairman of the county health system’s board that selected the interim CEO, said he isn’t worried about Shannon’s background at Parkland. Carvalho described Shannon as someone who tried to right the ship at the large public hospital in Dallas.

“The good guys who were in there trying to make things work and clean things up should never be tarred by the damage that’s caused by the bad guys,” Carvalho told reporters after the board appointed Shannon. “And if you’re one of the good guys, that’s the guy you want, the guy who will try to solve the problems, not the guy who says ‘Looks like the going’s got tough, I want to get out of here before somebody says that’s a negative on your resume because you were around when these problems had to be solved.’”

Shannon said he learned from the problems at Parkland, which he attributed in part to attempts to increase the volume of patient care and improve efficiency at the hospital, moves that he said led to lapses in safety.

Shannon will take over once Raju leaves for New York, which might happen in mid-March. Shannon will get a 10 percent raise and make an annual salary of $440,000 once he becomes CEO.
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, D-Evanston, praised Raju for the job he has done reforming the county hospital system since he took over in October 2011, and said Shannon is the logical choice to become interim CEO since he worked closely with Raju.

The hospital board will start a national search for a permanent replacement for Raju, which Carvalho said could take up to eight months. Shannon said he has not decided whether to throw his hat in the ring.

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