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Cook County to name new hospitals CEO

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Crain's Chicago Business
by Mike Colias

(Crain’s) — The board that oversees Cook County’s massive health system is expected on Thursday to pick local consultant William T. Foley as its new chief executive officer, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Mr. Foley, 56, was CEO of Provena Health, a Mokena-based six-hospital system, from 2001 to 2006. Since leaving Provena, Mr. Foley has engineered a sharp financial turnaround as interim CEO at Natividad Medical Center, a county-owned hospital about 20 miles northeast of Monterey, Calif.

The board has agreed on Mr. Foley over another finalist but has not formally approved the hire, the source said.

Mr. Foley was tapped to lead the 172-bed Natividad in 2007 as part of a turnaround team from Chicago-based Huron Consulting Group. Natividad swung from a $20-million loss a year earlier to a $3-million surplus, according to The Californian, Salinas newspaper. It was the hospital’s first profit in two decades, the paper said.

He would face an enormous task reforming Cook County’s health system. Financial losses have mounted in recent years as special federal funding streams for Cook County began to dry up. Years of mismanagement led to a huge backlog of unpaid patient bills.

Under mounting pressure to fix the problems, the Cook County Board of Commissioners agreed last spring to cede control of the health system to the 11-member independent board, which was given three years to overhaul the system.

The health board began its CEO search last summer and narrowed the list to two finalists last month. In an interview Wednesday, Chairman Warren Batts said the board expects to announce its new CEO on Thursday, but he “won’t confirm or deny” if it will be Mr. Foley.

Cook County’s health system includes Stroger Hospital, two other hospitals and dozens of outpatient clinics that serve mostly uninsured and Medicaid patients. The 7,300-employee system has an $850-million budget for fiscal 2009, which ends Nov. 30.

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