A city native returns to head St. Agnes Hospital


Bonnie L. Phipps, an Atlanta health care executive who is a native of Baltimore, has been tapped to become president and chief executive of St. Agnes Hospital early next year.

In that position, Phipps will set the strategic direction for the Southwest Baltimore hospital and oversee an ambitious expansion plan. Next month, the hospital is to break ground on the first phase of a multiyear project that includes a renovated emergency room, new cancer center, patient tower, parking garages and medical offices.

Phipps will replace Kenneth H. Bancroft, who announced this spring that he would end his five-year tenure as head of the 308-bed hospital at the end of the year.

"We have found one of the top hospital presidents in the country," Albert R. Counselman, chairman of the board of St. Agnes, said yesterday. "She's decided she wants to be in Baltimore and to help us with a very aggressive plan to grow our hospital, attract new physicians and attract new patients."

Phipps, 57, a certified managed care professional and certified public accountant, has headed St. Joseph's Health System in Atlanta for three years. Her facility is in the midst of a $311 million expansion, Phipps said.

"St. Agnes is at a real turning point in history," Phipps said. "Much of my focus will be on making sure we have the right mix of services and the right support for physicians."

"Most national numbers say that patients who choose a hospital choose it based on the recommendation of physicians," she said. "Only 10 percent choose it on their own. My position is that if the physician thinks a hospital is great, they will bring the patients to you."

"So," Phipps said, "I've always focused a lot of attention on physicians."

St. Agnes, a member of St. Louis-based Ascension Health, has a medical staff of 764 and an additional 3,110 employees. In recent years, the hospital has turned its fortunes around, from losing $2 million in 2001 to earning a profit of $18 million during the 2005 fiscal year, according to a St. Agnes official.

Bancroft, the outgoing president and CEO, said he was impressed with how well Phipps' values and character seem to mesh with those of St. Agnes.

"She relates to people at all levels," he said. "Health care has become more challenging than ever. It's going to require leaders who can bring people together to reach new and creative solutions."

Phipps said she has been able to increase the Atlanta hospital's admissions at the rate of 2 percent to 3 percent a year, above the regular market growth and plans to make similar development a priority in Baltimore.

"I think St. Agnes can be a destination hospital because of its location near interstates, instead of just being community-based," she said.

Phipps was born and raised in Baltimore, at first living near the old Memorial Stadium and then moving to the upper Homeland neighborhood at Lake Avenue and Charles Street, she said. She graduated from Eastern High School.

In 1972, she moved to Atlanta, where she has lived since.

Before joining St. Joseph's, she spent about 16 years at Promina Health System Inc. in Atlanta and was president and CEO at the time she left.

Moving back to Baltimore is certainly part of the appeal of the job for Phipps.

"It gives me the chance to get back to my roots," she said. "I miss the ethnic makeup of Baltimore. I miss steamed crabs. ... I didn't realize how much I missed it until I went to a Ravens game."


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