St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville will be getting a new leader. Current president and chief executive officer Maryann Reese is leaving at the end of this month for a new job.
Reese, who has been CEO of St. Elizabeth’s since January 2011, has accepted a new position as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Saint Francis Health System in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
“I’ll be transitioning from CEO of a hospital to a broader role in charge of operations over the hospitals there; they have a long-term acute care hospital, they have some surgery centers, home-health hospice and then a physician enterprise as well,” Reese said. “It’s a great professional move for me. I’m really excited about it.”
Reese’s last day will be July 30.
The board’s approval allows St. Elizabeth’s to close its 303-bed hospital in downtown Belleville and open a replacement 144-bed hospital seven miles away off Interstate 64 on North Green Mount Road. The cost of the project is $253 million.
St. Elizabeth’s replacement hospital is expected to be completed by December 2017. Reese said she plans to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony when the new facility opens.
Preliminary site work is underway. “There’s a lot of activity going on,” said Reese, who expects the new hospital will be a “game changer for this region.”
“The project is full steam ahead,” said James Dover, president and chief executive officer of Hospital Sisters Health System Southern Illinois Division. “Mine remediation continues ... the project is currently on schedule. All eyes are focused forward. ...We don’t expect to miss a step on the project.”
The city of Belleville and Memorial Hospital strongly opposed St. Elizabeth relocating to O’Fallon. Memorial Hospital is currently constructing a hospital to be known as Memorial Hospital East on Cross Street in Shiloh. The 94-bed hospital is expected to be completed by spring 2016.
Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said he finds it “very interesting” that Reese was likely interviewing and negotiating the terms of her new employment during the final meetings to move St. Elizabeth’s out of downtown Belleville.
“I find it very concerning,” he said. “They were working very hard to move the hospital from downtown Belleville and now all of a sudden that person who was working so hard to do that is leaving for another opportunity already. It’s concerning.”
In his 10 years as mayor, Eckert said there’s been a number of different CEOs at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
“To me, that’s part of the problem why they can’t turn that hospital around and make a profit,” he said. “It’s just disappointing. I’m looking for the compassion, feeling and commitment with a community that’s worked with them for 140 years.”
According to information provided by St. Elizabeth’s, the hospital has had four CEOs over the past decade: Sharon Timmons served as interim during the search after CEO Kevin Shrake left. Prior to Shrake, Timothy Brady was CEO.
In May, the city of Belleville filed suit in St. Clair County Court seeking to overturn the state’s approval of St. Elizabeth’s relocation project.
Dover said he couldn’t comment on the litigation. “An 8-0 vote from the Illinois planning board speaks for itself,” he said. “As far as we’re concerned, those difficult days are over. We want to continue to take care of the entire community and the region.”
Reese, who lives in O’Fallon, said she is proud of how her leadership team has grown over the past five years, and of the hospital becoming a top cardiovascular hospital in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
“We will all miss Maryann but are excited for her as she begins this new phase in a very successful career,” Dover said. “We know that Maryann will continue to make outstanding contributions to Catholic healthcare in her new role.”
St. Elizabeth’s is sad to see Reese go, he said, but happy for her at the same time. “Maryann is a fantastic and tremendous leader in our system,” he said. “What she’s done in terms of leadership team here has been phenomenal. She’s a great Catholic healthcare leader.”
Reese said she’s going to miss the people of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital the most and the metro-east community.
“There’s a great group of people that really believe in the mission and the ministry of what we do each and every day,” she said. “I felt a lot of support by the community and the greater community at large, the region, and also the community of Belleville.”
John Lengerman, executive director of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce, said Reese has been a “great chamber member,” though they disagreed about the decision to relocate the hospital.
“We appreciate all they do for us,” he said of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. “We have a good relationship with a number of folks at the hospital. We look forward to working with whoever may be appointed.”
Debbie Arell-Martinez, executive director of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber thinks “the world of Maryann” Reese.
“Everything she does, she does with grace and with class,” Arell-Martinez said. “We have enjoyed the partnership that we have had with her and St. Elizabeth’s over the time she has been there, and we look forward to continuing that partnership with St. Elizabeth’s and we wish Maryann well.”
HSHS will be conducting a search for Reese’s replacement. Dover said a nationwide CEO search typically takes three to eight months.
“That replacement will build upon the great job Maryann has done,” he said. “The next leader to carry on the St. Elizabeth’s journey will have to have some skill sets ready to take the good work Maryann’s done (and move it forward).”
HSHS expects to have an interim CEO in place prior to Reese’s departure at the end of this month. Reese said she will work with Dover and others on a transition plan.
“I know St. Elizabeth’s is well positioned for the future,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for whoever sits in my seat.”