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SSM Health president to retire next year

SSM Health president and CEO Bill Thompson.
provided by SSM Health

The president and CEO of one of St. Louis’ largest health systems will retire next year, after five years in the position.

Creve-Coeur based SSM Health — a  Catholic, nonprofit network of hospitals, clinics and other providers — announced Wednesday that it will begin a national search to hire a replacement for Bill Thompson.

“There’s been a lot of things that have happened in this organization over the past 36 years that I take great pride in, most of which happened not because of me," Thompson said. "But I feel great pride because I was here when they did happen."

Thompson joined SSM 36 years ago as a hospital systems administrator. He moved up the ranks and became the network's president in 2011.

During his tenure, the system followed the rest of the industry by adding several hospitals, clinics and a pharmacy benefit manager to its network, which spans four Midwestern states. The growth has pushed SSM’s revenue to $5.5 billion a year.

“It will give us a better ability to meet all the needs of the people we’re serving,” Thompson said. “The focal point of health care in the future will not be hospitals. It will be physician offices, or care managers. It will be delivering care to the patient in a fashion that the patient wants care delivered.”

In 2015, SSM added a major feather to its cap with the acquisition of St. Louis University Hospital, its first academic medical center that serves adult patients. The network has enlisted architects to design a new hospital building and outpatient center, but has not said what it will do with the existing hospital.

Earlier this year, the system was the subject ofa St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation on collection practices. The newspaper reported that a contractor hired by SSM to staff its emergency rooms had sued hundreds of St. Louis-area patients for unpaid medical bills.  

Thompson said addressing that issue will be part of his work over the next year.

“There was a breakdown in the process because the physicians were supposed to follow our charity policy,” he said. “We will make sure that communication and that process is bolstered so we won’t have these kinds of breakdowns in the future.”

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB