Sister Carol Keehan, who presided over Providence Hospital in Washington as it transitioned from a money loser to one of the area's largest hospitals, is leaving the facility to become the full-time board chairwoman of Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola, Fla.
In addition to her post at Providence, Keehan, 60, was elected to a three-year term as secretary and treasurer of the Catholic Health Association in September 2002. She also received national attention during President Bush's State of the Union address in January, when she was chosen to sit two seats from first lady Laura Bush in full view of television cameras.
Keehan is expected to make the move during the summer. She was reassigned to her new post by St. Louis-based Ascension Health, which owns both Providence and Sacred Heart. Before becoming head of Providence in 1989, she was the hospital's vice president of nursing from 1979 to 1984. From 1987 to 1989 she was president and chief executive at Sacred Heart Hospital in Cumberland, Md.
Keehan, 60, was traveling and could not be reached for comment by deadline, but in a written statement said: "I love the people and mission of Providence Hospital. You have made it a joy each day to be part of this wonderful care. However, I made a commitment to going wherever (the system's sponsor) thinks I can be most useful."
With 562 beds, Providence is Washington's third-largest hospital after St. Elizabeths Hospital and the Washington Hospital Center, according to the American Hospital Association guide. It also is the district's oldest continuously operating hospital, created by a congressional charter in 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln.
When Keehan took over as president and CEO at Providence in 1989, it was struggling financially and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Just two years later the facility turned a small profit by aggressively signing eligible Medicaid patients and weeding out uninsured patients who went to the emergency room with minor medical ailments.
John McDaniel, CEO of MedStar Health, which owns Georgetown University Hospital, said in a written statement: "Sister Carol is a mainstay in the Washington healthcare community. Her leaving will be a tremendous loss for all of us who look to her leadership in meeting the healthcare challenges of the community."
Ascension, with 67 facilities in 20 states and Washington, has created a search committee to find Keehan's successor.