The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 12, 2018 1:00 am

Michigan hospital exec to lead St. Joseph

Lutheran CEO cites her 'pursuit of positive change'

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Karen Fordham will be St. Joseph Hospital's next CEO, Lutheran Health Network officials announced Thursday.

Her first day at the downtown hospital, which is part of Lutheran's network, will be Jan. 22.

A native of Michigan, Fordham has more than 20 years of health care leadership experience, most recently as president and CEO of Huron Valley Sinai Hospital. The 158-bed, full-service community teaching hospital is about 40 miles northwest of downtown Detroit and part of Detroit Medical Center.

She resigned from that position in February 2017 in the midst of organizational changes made by parent company Tenet Healthcare. 

Since leaving Huron Valley, Fordham has offered consulting services through her firm, Topside Strategies Consulting in Commerce, Michigan.

Fordham is the fourth top executive hired in five months by the health care provider.

Parent company Community Health Systems appointed Mike Poore regional president and CEO of Lutheran Health Network in August. Since then, Poore has hired CEOs for Lutheran, Dupont and St. Joseph hospitals.

In September, Poore announced plans to invest $100 million – or more – in a full-service, 100-bed downtown hospital that will replace St. Joe. Plans call for construction to begin this year with occupancy in 2020.

The plans were met with some skepticism because the announcement didn't display renderings, specify a dollar amount, name a location or offer a bed count. 

Skeptics also pointed to the $15 billion in CHS debt as a reason to doubt the hospital will be built.

Jerry Henry, chairman of St. Joseph Hospital's board of trustees and a local business leader, said serious talks about a replacement hospital began at the board level about a year ago.

St. Joseph is licensed for 191 beds and offers the full 191 to patients, unlike some hospitals, which are licensed for more beds than they actually offer. On the day of the new hospital announcement, 100 of those beds were occupied, officials said.

Poore said the new hospital, which will have a new name, will offer emergency services, intensive care and an accredited burn unit.

In making the announcement about Fordham's hiring, Lutheran officials described this as “arguably one of the most significant moments” in St. Joseph's history.

“Karen's background and tireless pursuit of positive change made her the right person at the right time to lead St. Joseph Hospital into the future,” Poore said in a statement. “Her ability to turn vision into action, which includes successfully managing more than $100 million in construction projects during her healthcare career, is just a small sample of what excites our board at St. Joe and me.”

Judge Stanley Levine, vice chairman of the hospital's board, said Fordham views challenges “as opportunities for growth and change.”

Fordham's experience at Detroit Medical Center includes oversight of hospital operations, service line development, strategic planning, physician recruitment, process improvement and financial management. Her previous positions in the health care system include serving as president and CEO of Detroit Surgery Hospital; regional vice president of orthopedics and sports medicine; and regional vice president of imaging services.

Fordham earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Western Michigan University. Her undergraduate major was science with minors in business, social work and criminal justice. Her graduate degree is in business administration.

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