In an industry gripped by consolidation, Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights, Ill., guards its independence with a strong balance sheet and firm leadership from the last of a generation of nuns who once led many of Chicago's hospitals.
A Catholic hospital with a secular name, Palos has steadily grown to become the fourth-largest independent hospital in the Chicago area. Revenue climbed nearly 6 percent, to $359 million, between 2007 and 2011. Founded in 1972, the Palos Heights hospital has survived stiff competition, with five hospitals within 15 miles.
Palos has prospered by following a formula that is difficult to duplicate by hospitals in less-affluent areas. With a large number of patients on private insurance, Palos has stockpiled more than $680 million in cash and investments, making it the envy of larger rivals.
Another key is Sister Margaret Wright, 77, who started in the hospital's physical therapy department and became CEO more than 30 years ago. A quiet taskmaster, she also is known for her careful interest in the personal lives of her employees, people who know her say. The former theology student can be tough whether negotiating with insurance carriers or reining in difficult-to-manage doctors, they say.