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New name, new day at St. Joe’s?

Ascension Saint Joseph President Chris Shride says hospital is in resurgence

New Ascension Saint Joseph President Chris Shride acknowledged some of the Joliet hospital’s shortfalls while promising a resurgence during a speech on Thursday to the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“Our name has changed (again),” read a graphic in the visuals Shride presented in his speech.

The hospital became Ascension Saint Joseph in early April after a corporate restructuring.

Shride admits the new iteration must be better than the old and not just with new medical programs. That starts with addressing the internal culture. He stressed the hospital’s commitment to an “authentically loving and caring” environment and said it will start close to home.

“We have to do that first with our associates and our medical staff,” he said. “We are working very hard to change our culture.”

Nurses at the hospital were on strike for more than two weeks in July 2020. In January, employee pay was interrupted when the company that handles hospital payroll was the victim of a ransomware computer attack, and that issue has not yet been fully resolved.

“I am the new guy,” Shride said. “If you’re having a bit of deja vu, I can understand that.”

Shride is the third president in the past three years at the Joliet hospital, which has gone under the corporate names of AMITA, Presence and Provena since 2000.

Changes that Ascension plans, he said, include an improved workplace culture, a deeper commitment to the community and increased investment in medical facilities.

“I am speaking at a time when we are in resurgence,” Shride said. “You may be looking at me and thinking we’ve heard some positives before and be a little skeptical.”

But Shride repeated the theme of resurgence and said there already are promising signs.

The hospital is coming out of a period of “quiet stagnation,” Shride said as he pointed to new facilities recently opened and coming soon:

• The new Heart Hospital in a Hospital, a $6.5 million investment that began performing procedures this month.

• A primary care center opening June 6 on North Hammes Avenue.

• The Romeoville Cancer Center, a $4.6 million facility, opening in mid-July.

• A women’s health clinic in Plainfield, tentatively scheduled to open in September.

“The fact is, we are committed to start rerooting ourselves,” Shride said, adding that more facilities are planned but not ready for announcement.

Chamber board Chairman Ben Stortz wrapped up the Chamber luncheon meeting, noting the place Ascension Saint Joseph has in Joliet while referring to the hospital with the familiar name that has remained constant throughout the corporate changes.

“St. Joe’s position as a pillar institution is vital to our community,” Stortz said.

Audience members reacted positively to both Shride’s upbeat message and open assessment.

“He didn’t hold back,” Chamber President Jen Howard said, “and I think that’s what the audience was looking for.”