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New CEO: St. James has a bright future

072407/Chicago Heights Serving health needs for Southeast Suburban arefor decades St. James hospital Route 30   Chicago Road Chicago

072407/Chicago Heights Serving the health needs for the Southeast Suburban area for decades, St. James hospital on Route 30 & Chicago Road in Chicago Heights. ( Star/Mary Compton chihts2/photo cx)

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Updated: January 16, 2014 6:28AM



Arnie Kimmel was hired earlier this month as Franciscan St. James Health’s new chief executive officer to turn around the struggling south suburban health care network.

After all, Kimmel, 67, has experience returning underperforming hospitals to profitability.

Under his watch, he said, MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island — where he was CEO from 2006 to 2009 — went from losing $12 million annually to breaking even within a year.

The same set of skills will be needed at Franciscian St. James Health, which runs St. James hospitals in Olympia Fields and Chicago Heights as well as the Franciscan Physician Network, the Specialty Physicians of Illinois, a fitness center and two urgent care clinics.

In June, the Franciscan Alliance, a Mishawaka, Ind.-based company that owns Franciscan St. James Health as well as 11 hospitals in Indiana, announced it was looking for new owners and investors in its Illinois businesses, citing significant losses.

In all, the Illinois companies have an annual budget of about $30 million and the units employ about 1,600 workers, including 350 doctors.

Kimmel, who lives with his wife in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, said the company’s plans to open up the Illinois businesses to new owners or investors may have been premature. Shortly after their announcement, the plans were shelved.

“My understanding is they were not satisfied with any of the bids and they brought in a consultant to help improve the operations,” Kimmel said.

The health care network would begin to entertain offers again in early 2014 after he helps put the medical network in a better financial position to be sold.

Under his leadership, Kimmel said he said he wants the hospitals to expand their popular cancer and heart programs as well as negotiate some third-party contracts. He doesn’t expect any layoffs.

“There is an annual deficit we are trying to turn around and we’re succeeding,” Kimmel said, declining to reveal the size of the deficit.

He also said he wants Southland residents to know the St. James hospitals are not going anywhere.

“This is a very, very good hospital that is going to be around for a long, long time,” Kimmel said. “As it is known that hospitals are for sale, as this hospital was and will be, I think people do wonder and worry about who the new owner might be and what they might do. I think those concerns are misplaced, but they exist.”

Kimmel, who has four children with his wife Lauren, spent the last three years working at Prime Health Care, a California-based company that runs 24 hospitals throughout the nation.

Before he took that job, Kimmel worked as the chief executive officer of MetroSouth Medical Center in Blue Island. He said he helped turn around the hospital by hiring doctors from Chicago’s Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Centers, which closed in 2009. Those doctors were able to serve customers the hospital previously was not reaching in cardiology and women’s services.

“Arnie Kimmel’s record speaks for itself,” said Kevin Leahy, president and CEO of Franciscan Alliance. “He is the leader this health system needs to navigate the successful restructuring that began several months ago.”

Kimmel got his start in the field after earning his master’s degree in hospital administration from the University of Michigan in 1971. He earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis in 1968.

While the hospital network has Catholic roots, Kimmel is Jewish. He is quick to mention that fact hasn’t changed the trajectory of his career.

“I just told a bunch of physicians that for a Jewish kid from Nebraska, I’ve done a lot of work for Catholic hospitals,” he said.



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