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New CEO of county health system named

Dr. Jay Shannon was unanimously chosen on Friday to be the new chief executive officer of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, ending a $100,000 national search for candidates.

Shannon, 54, had served as the interim CEO for the last three months after Dr. Ramanathan Raju left to work for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, running that city’s hospital system. Shannon had been No. 2 executive under Raju before he left.

Shannon’s start date as CEO will be Sunday.

He will have his plate full. On July 1, CountyCare — a pilot program under the Affordable Care Act that expanded Medicaid coverage early to Cook County and was successfully run by Raju — is scheduled to transition to a state-paid Medicaid managed-care entity under the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

The system also is looking to sell plans in the state’s insurance coverage created by President Barack Obama’s health care law. Not to mention that Shannon will be running the third largest public health systems in the nation. Cook County Health and Hospitals System, which includes Stroger Hospital, has a $1 billion budget.

Shannon was selected by the 11-member board from a pool of more than 100 candidates. David Carvalho, board chairman of the Cook County health system, declined to name the other candidates who applied for the job, but he said they had ultimately narrowed it down to three candidates.

Shannon first joined the old Cook County Hospital medical staff in 1990 and stayed until 2007, when he went to be the chief medical officer at the Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas. Shannon accepted Raju’s offer to return to Cook County Health and Hospitals in 2013 as chief of clinical integration after the federal government called the Dallas public hospital a “serious threat to patient health safety.” Shannon has said that during his last year at Parkland, he worked closely with the federal monitor to make needed changes and has learned from that experience.

Critics may doubt Shannon’s ability to lead CCHHS because of his past with Parkland or because they perceive him “too close to some of our staff,” said Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who helped establish the health system’s independent board in 2008.

But Suffredin said Shannon was “a very good” choice, in part because of the experience he got with Raju and his understanding of the financial model that Raju put in place.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle also gave her support to him, while calling on him to keep lowering health care costs and continue streamlining care that Raju started.

Shannon agreed that it’s important to continue what Raju began.

“That being said, I’ll have my own challenges,” he said. “As an example, the idea and the initiation of the Medicaid managed care plan are critically important. The actual phase two, if you will, of stabilization, improvement, and consolidation of services within a Medicaid managed care will be every bit as challenging as that.”

Figuring out “what the Affordable Care Act starts to look like in the coming years” will be another challenge, he said.