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Local News

Q&A: Ruth Colby, next president and CEO of Silver Cross Hospital

Ruth Colby
Ruth Colby

NEW LENOX – Herald-News Reporter Mike Mallory recently spoke with Silver Cross Hospital Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Vice President of Business Development Ruth Colby, who was named the next president and CEO of Silver Cross Hospital last week. She will take over in October, when longtime President and CEO Paul Pawlak retires.

Mallory: Is this new role something you always wanted to do?

Colby: I’ve been with Silver Cross for 12 years. I very much enjoy working in health care, with physicians and nurses, and all the people that serve patients. My father was a doctor. At one time, he was chief of staff of the hospital he was at. I heard a lot about running a hospital. Over time, it seemed a natural course in my career. There’s great responsibility with ending up in this role. I hope to use my financial training, health care training and people training, and deploy all of those things for the people we serve.

Mallory: How do you and Silver Cross plan to transition between now and October?

Colby: Paul [Pawlak] has served here 27 years. He has an amazing legacy, from building a new hospital, to winning a spot in the 100 top hospitals, to building an ambulatory surgery center, we now have over 800 physicians. I have very big shoes to fill. I will be working closely with Paul and learning from him. I’ll be in certain meetings that I might not have been in before. I will seek his guidance on how he was such an effective CEO so I can have a smooth transition. As a hospital, we plan to follow our course. Our board developed a three-year strategic plan and it will be my job to execute it.

Mallory: What are some of Silver Cross’ goals or objectives for the next few years?

Colby: We recently made the Leapfrog Group honor roll. It’s an organization that assesses quality in hospitals. Only 3 percent of hospitals made the honor roll, which requires an A grade in safety five consecutive years. Being a safe hospital is a goal we have. We have a goal of zero harm. We’re always concerned about the patient experience. We work hard to get comments from patients and visitors to improve on our satisfaction ratings.

We have goals to expand our expertise in certain areas. We have the largest robotic surgery program in the area, which we continue to grow. We’re advancing in thoracic surgery. Our University of Chicago partnership is advancing, with that we want to provide the community access to certain services without traveling into Chicago. We have goals in technology and ease of use. We were one of the first to do online scheduling in the area. It allows patients to schedule appointments in the middle of the night if they do so desire. We want to add services and uses for telemedicine. We want to continue community partnerships, and support individuals with our scholarship program.

Mallory: What is the biggest health care challenge facing the area?

Colby: I participate on the MAPP Collaborative Board with the Will County Health Department, which does a community health needs assessment. The No. 1 thing each year is the need for more mental and substance abuse services in our area. Silver Cross reached out to US HealthVest to partner on Silver Oaks [behavioral health hospital]. We are requesting approval from the state of Illinois to build a 100-bed facility that will help address this need.

Mallory: How has the move to New Lenox worked out?

Colby: The move has been wonderful. It’s allowed us to serve many more patients, with more beds and more outpatient pavilions. We have the space to expand. The most important thing, though, is we worked hard to bring the Silver Cross culture into this building. The people in the building make great health care. We’ve added many more people to our staff since the move, and we’ve made sure the culture is an important part of the move.

Mallory: What do you think Silver Oaks will do for the area?

Colby: The initial impact will be 80 more inpatient beds available. We currently have 20. Those services will move into the new building and make a total of 100 beds. The hospital’s plan is to work closely with community agencies so that when we discharge patients they get into the right outpatient support environment. Ultimately, the goal is to have people less frequently return to the hospital for services. We’ve done our projections carefully, but we would look at expanding if it’s needed.

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