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CEO of St. Louis University Hospital to step down before acquisition by SSM Health

St. Louis Hospital CEO, Phillip Sowa, will leave his position when when SSM Health closes on a deal to take over ownership of the facility.
Provided by SLU Hospital

The CEO of St. Louis University Hospital is stepping down, less than a month after officials announced the 356-bed facility would soon be taken over by SSM Health. Until then, academic medical center is still under the ownership of Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

Phillip Sow, 68, rose up the ranks at Tenet-owned hospitals around the country. He moved back to St. Louis to take the position at SLU Hospital in 2011, after the abrupt departure of the hospital’s former CEO. Pending regulatory approval, SSM Health is expected to gain ownership of the hospital in the third quarter of 2015.  

“I’ve always believed that new owners should have a choice of who they want as leaders. Let’s give them that opportunity,” Sowa said in a phone interview with St. Louis Public Radio.

Under Sowa’s leadership, SLU Hospital introduced an outpatient bone-marrow transplant clinic, a cardiac surgery center and rose to ninth in overall hospital rankings among Tenet’s 79 hospitals, according to a release.

“But more importantly, we were one of two hospitals in the St. Louis region that had market share growth in 2013 and 2014. That’s in a city that essentially has a stagnant population growth,” said Sowa, who also chairs the St. Louis chapter of the Missouri Hospital Association.

Sowa’s departure is effective when the deal between Tenet, St. Louis University and SSM Health officially closes.

SSM Health spokesperson Diane McKillip said the system plans to announce Sowa’s replacement internally tomorrow. She said they are not planning to replace any top officials at SLU Hospital and do not anticipate any staffing changes as the merger goes through.

“We want all of those SLU hospital employees to stay. We’re hoping that they all agree to stay,” McKillip said. “We are not planning on pay changes, and the unions are in place.”

Sowa attended Saint Louis University for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees before beginning his career in health administration. In the immediate future, Sowa said he plans to move to Newnan, Ga., with his wife while he looks for interim opportunities.

“It was always our intention, if something like this would happen, that we would move to Newnan,” Sowa said. “I don’t think I’ll be setting out on any long-term plan shortly.”

Change at another hospital

President and CEO, Maryann Reese, stands in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in downtown Belleville, IL. The current building was completed in 1954.
Credit Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
President and CEO, Maryann Reese, stands in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in downtown Belleville, IL. The current building was completed in 1954.

The CEO of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville also announced her resignation on Monday. The facility, which is owned by Hospital Sisters Health System, recently won approval from an Illinois state regulator to relocate to O’Fallon.

According to a release, CEO Maryann Reese is leaving at the end of the month to become the Chief Operating Officer of another health system based in Cape Girardeau. She served as CEO in Belleville for five years. 

For more health and science news from St. Louis, follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB

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