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Chicago Hospital News, May 2003

Profile: 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 patients.

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."

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Copyright © 2003 by John Fries, Pittsburgh, PA.
Please direct all correspondence to JohnFries@aol.com.