Israel Rocha to resign as Cook County Health Department director

Cook County Health Department CEO Israel Rocha will leave the health system on Dec. 1 “to pursue new career opportunities,” a CCH spokesperson announced Friday.

“Serving as CEO of the Cook County Health Department is truly an honor,” Rocha said in a statement. “I am honored and grateful to be a small part of CCH’s rich legacy. I have every confidence that the incredible team assembled at CCH will continue the strong work of the health system and lead it into a bright future.”

Spokeswoman Alexandra Normington said CCH’s interim director would be announced “shortly.”

The Cook County Health Department not only operates a public health department, two flagship hospitals (Stroger and Provident), and clinics throughout the city and suburbs, it also operates CountyCare, CCH’s Medicaid health plan, and serves inmates at the Cook County Jail medical services provided by the provider.

Its proposed 2024 budget is $4.37 billion.

In October 2020, Rocha jumped to CCH from New York City Health & Hospitals, the largest public health system in the United States, as the Cook County Health Department prepared for another wave of COVID-19 cases.

Rocha also served as CEO of Elmhurst Hospital and Queens Hospital Doctors Hospital in New York and Edinburg, Texas.He differs from CCH’s past physician leaders: Rocha is a public administrator who also worked for Texas Congressman Rubén Hinojosa in Washington, D.C.

Cook County Council President Tony Preckwinkle thanked Rocha in a statement for his “steadfast leadership” during “a once-in-a-century pandemic that has engulfed every community in our country.”

“Led by Israel’s leadership, the health system is saving lives by opening mass vaccination sites, administering more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccines, and increasing and strengthening services at CCH hospitals and clinics” while addressing “social determinants of health.” . … I am grateful for Israel’s exceptional leadership and offer him my best wishes as he embarks on his next journey,” Preckwinkle said.

In CCH’s statement, Health System Board of Trustees Chairman Lyndon Taylor praised Rocha’s budgetary capabilities and setting a clear vision for “advancing the health system and its fundamental mission.” Under his leadership, CCH achieved positive change in its annual budget, achieved record rates of hiring… developed plans to improve quality outcomes and more. “

Rocha’s position remained vacant for nearly a year following the ouster of Dr. John Jay Shannon. At the end of the five-year term, the CCH board chose not to renew Shannon’s contract following a review of rising costs at charity care and debt collection practices. Since Shannon’s exit, Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board of Commissioners have been given more authority over the Board of Health, including approving the next chief executive.

Since its founding, its mission has been to serve all patients regardless of their ability to pay. CCH continues to bear the majority of the county’s charity care costs: All told, such care costs were $175 million in 2021 and $142 million in 2022. Normington said expansion of the state’s health benefit program for immigrant adults and seniors has helped lower costs.

But the charity care burden became more complicated as the county agreed to cover the medical costs of asylum seekers pouring into Chicago. Normington told the Tribune in early October that the health system has spent nearly $30 million since September 2022 to address the health needs of newcomers. These costs are approximately $2 million per month.

In addition to providing leadership during the pandemic, Rocha also weathered an 18-day strike by 73 SEIU local workers in the summer of 2021. The system still struggles to find full-time clinical staff and sometimes relies on expensive contract workers. The system’s next CEO will also have to address the future of Providence Hospital: Rocha’s early plans to transform South Side Hospital have been shelved multiple times.

Bob Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor and chairman of CCH’s finance committee, said Rocha “has built a strong team and we are in a better position today than we have ever been on the board or in my time at the company.” Energy saving lamps. That was 13 years ago. “

“When we hired him, I was inspired that we were going to have someone who could take the largest public safety net system in our state, one of the largest in the country, and put it on par with the large nonprofit systems in Chicago. . ,” Wright continued. “Providing health care, providing public health protection and providing health care coverage — getting all three of those things pointed in the right direction so that they compliment each other rather than fight against each other has been a challenge until we got this guy in… We have to find another leader who can bring about change and keep us on this path.”

“In the coming days, the CCH board will develop a transition plan to appoint an interim CEO and conduct a national search for a permanent replacement,” Taylor said.

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