Elaine Couture will take over as chief executive officer of Providence Health Care, directing the region’s largest private employer and medical provider through the challenges of health care reform and politics.
Couture’s new role at Providence puts her at the helm of a network that includes four hospitals and more than 250 physicians, along with nursing homes, clinics, educational endeavors, charities and business.
At the center of it all, Couture said, is a commitment to continuing Providence’s legacy of caring for the poor and advancing the region’s medical expertise.
“I’m just incredibly honored to have this opportunity,” she said.
She has spent a career blending her training as a nurse with a sharp business acumen that first brought her 10 years ago to what is now Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.
She has been a leading executive overseeing both Sacred Heart and Holy Family hospitals as they wrestled with treating more patients, changing insurance and government reimbursement schemes, and – perhaps most notable – sharp competition with Community Health Systems Inc., a for-profit company that operates Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center.
Current CEO Mike Wilson will retire at the end of the year but spend the next year working with Couture through the leadership change.
Wilson has been with Providence for 31 years. He was rehired 1 1/2 years ago to lead the organization through a tumultuous period of change that saw many of Spokane’s physicians selling their practices to hospital systems.
Providence supports health care reform as necessary to curb soaring medical costs and cope with growing numbers of uninsured patients.
Board chairman Mike Reilly said Couture’s abilities made her the right replacement for Wilson.
“Our goal was to find someone who could successfully hold employee, physician and community trust,” he said. “And that was a tough demand.”