County health chief resigns at sensitive time

March 25, 2011

By Gabriel Spitzer

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(WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)
Outgoing CEO Bill Foley defends his plan to close a county hospital and invest in clinics.

The board overseeing Cook County’s Health and Hospitals System plans to meet this evening to discuss hiring an interim CEO. That person will replace Bill Foley, who announced his resignation yesterday.

The turnover comes at a sensitive time for the system, which is in the midst of an overhaul set into motion by Foley. Implementing the changes will be a challenge for his replacement, who will have to overcome a budget crunch and skeptical state regulators.

Still, county officials expressed confidence they would find a top-notch person.

“This is surely a difficult time for our public health and hospitals system, but it’s not an impossible time,” said County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “And it’s a great opportunity for somebody who is a committed public servant, so we just have to find the right one for this job.”

As Foley pushed through plans to downsize hospitals and invest in clinics he ran into hostility from unions, some commissioners and members of the public. People close to Foley say that criticism stung.

He’ll take over as CEO of a hospital chain owned by the for-profit Vanguard Health Systems. Foley will remain at the county through May 6.

Hear more about this development, and what it means for the 900-million-dollar public health system, in WBEZ’s on-air segment:

County 2-way.mp3