The big cross atop SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital–Jefferson City will stay lit for the foreseeable future, following an announcement from the Catholic healthcare provider that owns it.
St. Louis-based SSM Health announced Oct. 12 that it and Tennessee-based Quorum Health Corporation have mutually decided to end discussions about possibly transferring ownership of the hospital.
Instead, SSM Health plans to expand its services in the area and invest in the care it provides at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical Group.
“To be clear, we will be undertaking steps to both stabilize and invigorate SSM Health services in this region,” SSM Health chief operating officer Steve Smoot wrote to hospital staff.
SSM Health is a Catholic, not-for-profit health system founded by the religious congregation now known as the Franciscan Sisters of Mary.
Mr. Smoot stated further that SSM Health’s goal remains “to ensure a sustainable and thriving healthcare ministry for the people of Jefferson City.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight welcomed the announcement.
“SSM Health’s renewed commitment to our communities, in its decision to invest in St. Mary’s Hospital–Jefferson City, is very good news for all of us,” he said.
“This announcement means we will continue to have access to quality healthcare in a Catholic environment, which enhances the quality of life for all in our region,” he stated.
Bishop McKnight called on healthcare professionals and healthcare recipients alike to “respond with a reciprocal investment in St. Mary’s.”
“Our loved ones will be healthier when St. Mary’s Hospital is healthy,” the bishop stated. “Together, we can make our communities better.”
Changing of the guard
Mr. Smoot also announced the appointment of George Hayes, a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE), as interim regional president for SSM Health’s Mid-Missouri region.
Mr. Hayes succeeds Mike Baumgartner, who has been serving in a dual role as regional president for SSM’s Mid-Missouri and Southern Illinois regions.
“With this transition, (Mr. Hayes) will be able to provide his undivided attention on supporting each of you and our health ministry in Jefferson City as we look toward the future,” Mr. Smoot stated.
Mr. Hayes brings extensive experience, including the past four years as healthcare executive in residence for Innosphere Ventures in Fort Collins, Colorado.
“He also has 12 years of experience as a health system President and CEO with University of Colorado Health, and 22 years in leadership with Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City,” Mr. Smoot noted.
SSM Health has also restructured its clinical leadership in the Mid-Missouri region, combining the roles of chief medical officer and medical group president.
Dr. Lenora Adams will fill this role on an interim basis while a search is conducted.
From the beginning
Members of the religious congregation formerly known as the Sisters of St. Mary founded St. Mary’s Hospital in Jefferson City in 1904.
The current SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital complex off of Highway 179 on Mission Drive was completed in October 2014.
SSM Health in August 2018 entered formal discussions about possibly transferring ownership of the hospital to another healthcare provider.
SSM stated at that time that its goal was to make provisions for “the long-term sustainability of high-quality care” in the community.
Exclusive discussions with Quorum Health began in November 2020.
Bishop McKnight stated in 2018 that regardless of any change of ownership for the hospital, the Catholic Church would remain true to its commitment to provide quality healthcare.
He emphasized that as one of the corporal works of mercy, caring for the sick — including their spiritual care — is a core element of the Church’s Catholic mission.
Mr. Smoot, in his Oct. 12 letter, thanked all of the hospital’s employees for their extraordinary work over the past 18 months.
“You have courageously served the needs of this community during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also dealing with the added complexity and uncertainty of our planned transition of ownership in the region,” he said.
He noted that this has been a long and difficult process, “and your faithful service to our mission and our patients with compassion and dedication has been remarkable.”
He called to mind the hospital’s founding sisters, who often faced setbacks and uncertainty, and did so with courage and compassion.
“In each of you, I see our Sisters’ spirit of service to Christ’s healing ministry and encourage you to continue courageously,” he stated.