When he takes over as interim CEO of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Dr. John Jay Shannon said his biggest challenge will be to keep the direction and momentum going that his predecessor Dr. Ramanathan Raju set.
Everything from Cook County Health's finances to its relationships with other hospitals and government officials is in better shape since Raju became CEO in 2011, Shannon said. He noted that he'll have the support of a large leadership team Raju assembled — including recruiting Shannon — to help transform the two-hospital system that treats a large portion of uninsured and low-income patients into one that's focused on outpatient care.
“I think the biggest challenge … is trying to fill big shoes,” said Shannon, 53, who as chief of clinical integration oversees patient safety and quality.
Shannon, the No. 2 executive in Cook County Health who has spent 15 years in the system between various stints, was unanimously appointed interim CEO today as the system searches for Raju's successor. Raju recommended Shannon for the post.
“Dr. Shannon has been involved in almost all decision-making from the day he came in here,” Raju said. “So there's very little learning curve.”
Shannon said hasn't made a decision yet whether to put his name forward to become the CEO permanently, but wouldn't rule it out.
The 11-member health system board also unanimously approved hiring Chicago-based executive search firm Quick Leonard Kieffer to find its next leader.
Raju announced on Jan. 21 that he was hired away by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to lead the New York City Health & Hospitals Corp.
Raju was chief operating officer at the 11-hospital New York public health
system before coming in October 2011 to oversee the smaller Cook County Health, which includes John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital on the Near West Side, Provident Hospital on the South Side and a network of clinics.
Raju, who must be confirmed by the New York City health system board, is likely to start his new role as president in late March. Shannon would become interim CEO upon Raju's departure until the new CEO is named. The search could take up to eight months, said David Carvalho, chairman of the health system board.
Carvalho said he's not concerned about Shannon's controversial past.
Shannon returned to Cook County Health in February 2013 after resigning as chief medical officer at Parkland Health & Hospital System
, a Dallas-based public health system anchored by the hospital and a network of community clinics.
He was the last top manager to leave Parkland after the CMS
deemed the health system “an immediate and serious threat to patient health and safety,” according to an Aug. 2011 letter from the federal agency, which administers health insurance programs for the elderly, poor and disabled, to Parkland, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The newspaper has reported that the problems included a botched surgery, medication errors and emergency care problems. Parkland was found to be in compliance in August 2013, according to a letter from CMS to the health system.
“Our assessment of the situation was Jay was one of those people who stuck around and worked to solve the problems at Parkland,” Carvalho said. “That's the kind of person you want.”
Shannon said Parkland at the time was trying to widen access and improve volume and efficiency.
“It may have in so doing taken its eye off the ball a little bit as it related to the safety for those things,” Shannon said.
A spokeswoman for Parkland declined to comment.
Shannon, who received his medical degree from Rush Medical College, held several positions within Cook County Health, including associate chair of the Department of Medicine, before working on the leadership team at Parkland from 2007-12, according to his biography from Cook County Health.”No. 2 exec named interim CEO of Cook County health system” originally appeared on the Crain's Chicago Business website.