Ouster of Cook County Health CEO to cost taxpayers more than $600K

The Cook County (Ill.) Health and Hospital System board's Nov. 22 decision to oust CEO John Jay Shannon, MD, will cost taxpayers more than $600,000, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Dr. Shannon, who officially left his position Dec. 31 after leading the Chicago-based safety-net hospital system for five years, will receive $545,000 in severance pay and health insurance benefits. 

On top of the severance payment, Dr. Shannon will be eligible to apply for a county pension. Based on his years of service at the Cook County Health system, he would earn about $254,000 a year, according to the report. 

In addition, the interim replacement for Dr. Shannon has received a $40,000 raise, and the county will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars more to find a permanent leader, the Tribune reported.

M. Hill Hammock, chair of the county health system, told the Tribune it "intends to pay the severance in accordance with the contract."

"Severance agreements are standard operating practice in healthcare," Mr. Hammock said. "They exist as both a recruitment and retention tool in an industry that is highly competitive."

The Cook County Health system board unanimously voted in November to end Dr. Shannon's contract. The decision was made because they are seeking a new leader to address the system's major challenges, including a growing charity care budget. 

"The board will be seeking new ideas and leadership to address the System’s financial and service challenges," Mr. Hammock told WBEZ in November. "Fulfilling the broad service responsibilities of a public health care system, addressing the increase in charity care and ensuring the staff needed to deliver those services will require changes.”

Debra Carey, currently the two-hospital system's deputy CEO of operations, is serving as interim CEO while the board searches for a replacement.

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