Jesus M. Ong
Administrator and CEO, South Shore Hospital
Written by John Fries
The southeast side of Chicago has experienced a number of significant
changes over the past few decades. Perhaps most notably, thriving
inner-city neighborhoods that once teemed with industry have become
quiet and still since the steel mills and factories have been shuttered.
For those who live here, it can seem like a vastly different world
than the one they knew before. Many of them are growing older, and
the demand for convenient, accessible health and medical care is as
important as it’s always been, and perhaps even more so as they deal
with the unique health needs that accompany aging.
For nearly a century, South Shore Hospital has been providing the
residents of the southeast side and beyond with a wide range of quality
medical services. In addition to the 170-bed flagship facility at
8012 South Crandon Avenue, the hospital operates six community-based
clinics throughout the region—which combined, care for residents across
six zip codes. Specialties and services include same-day surgery,
24-hour emergency care, radiology, respiratory care, pediatric care,
nuclear medicine, cardiology, wound care, detoxification and chemical
dependency treatment programs. The hospital’s medical staff includes
177 physicians and specialists, many of whom are very active in admitting
The hospital plays an important role in the lives—and changing needs--of
its neighbors, and no one realizes this awesome responsibility more
that the hospital’s administrator and chief executive officer, Jesus
Ong. Known to his staff and friends as Jessie, the affable Ong is
a certified public accountant by education and a 29-year veteran of
South Shore Hospital, the last four years as chief administrator.
He was born, raised and educated in Manila, the Philippines, and in
1971, immigrated to Chicago, where he met his wife, Remy. In 1974,
he joined the hospital’s staff as an accountant and, two years later,
was named assistant administrator of finance. Four years ago, after
the death of longtime South Shore Hospital CEO John D. Harper, Ong
was named as his replacement.
Ong reflected on the changes he’s experienced over past three decades,
and on the challenges he’s experienced since assuming leadership of
the hospital. "During the 1970’s, the payor mix was much different
than it is today," he said. "Back then, twenty to thirty percent of
our patients were insured. Today, only about two percent of patients
have corporate health insurance coverage. Most are covered by either
Medicare or Medicaid. "It’s an aging population that increasingly
needs more services," said Ong.
Ong is pleased that the hospital continues to successfully meet and
deal with challenges as they come along. "We’re a small institution,"
said Ong," and given some of the things that are happening in the
health care environment--personnel shortages, rising insurance costs,
regulatory changes and more—we’re doing just fine."
He attributed this success to the dedication and efforts of the employees
and medical staff. South Shore Hospital has enjoyed a number of recent
accomplishments. Last year, the hospital renovated and modernized
its X-ray department, adding digital equipment to help improve efficiency
and quality of care. This past January, the Joint Commission on the
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) gave the hospital
an excellent score. "We’re very proud of that," said Ong.
Ong said he has an "open door" management style. He encourages physicians
and members of his administrative staff to bring their concerns or
suggestions to him without delay, so that any issues can be resolved
and improvements can be handled expediently. His administrative staff
consists of the hospital’s chief financial officer, director of nursing,
and assistant administrators responsible for ancillary services, community
relations and general services.
He stresses that the hospital fosters a family environment, with open
dialogue among both employees and medical staff about how to continually
improve care. "Everything we do ultimately focuses on what we can
do for our patients," he said. The hospital, he said, "is very involved
in the community. We do everything from offering free screenings and
services to going into the local schools and talking with students
about careers in health care."
On the personal side, Ong and Remy, a former dietitian, live in Lombard,
a suburb of Chicago. They have three adult sons--two married, one
single—all of whom live in Illinois.
Looking toward the future, Ong said the hospital continues to engage
in long-term strategic planning, identifying services that can be
added to address the needs of the community it serves. "We’re also
looking at ways to allocate space," he said. Items currently under
consideration include expanding orthopedic services, adding a diabetes
treatment center, and building a separate endoscopy room that would
enable the hospital to perform more procedures with greater efficiency.
"The most important thing," said Ong, "is that South Shore Hospital
continues to provide quality care to each and every patient."