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Jeff Fee is the regional chief executive for Providence Health and Services-Montana, which encompasses St. Patrick Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson, and many other clinics in the region. As of July 1, Providence is part of a larger system, Providence St. Joseph Health.

DAVID ERICKSON, for The Montana Standard

The man who headed up Providence St. Patrick Hospital for the past 10 years is stepping down.

Citing budget pressures, Providence announced Friday that chief executive officer Jeff Fee will leave at the end of the year and his positions will not be filled. Fee is also CEO for Providence Health and Services Western Montana, which includes St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson.

“Health care systems across the country are facing extraordinary pressure from the industry-wide trend of reduced revenue from both government and private health insurance plans,” Providence said in a news release. “At the same time, the cost of services – especially prescription drugs, medical supplies and labor costs – continue to increase at rates well above inflation. Health care systems are looking at ways to operate more affordably while keeping resources at the patient’s bedside.”

Fee didn’t indicate what’s in store for him but said in a statement the transition presents him with an opportunity “to consider the next phase of my career.”

“There’s some excitement with that prospect,” he said.

Joyce Dombrouski, Providence’s chief operating officer in western Montana, will expand her role to take on day-to-day operations at St. Patrick and St. Joseph.

“The people I have had the opportunity to work with in western Montana are of the highest caliber I have ever experienced in my career, and I’m leaving this organization in excellent hands,” said Fee.

He was hired at St. Pat’s in 2006 to replace interim CEO John Schwartz, who held the top post for six months after Steve Witz, the previous CEO, resigned to take a position at Purdue University. Schwartz had previously retired from hospital administration, but had served in a similar interim position in Oregon.

Fee came to Missoula from Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he’d spent 15 years at the 527-bed, three-campus Parkside Medical Center, the last two as CEO.

The face of health care systems has changed dramatically in his tenure with Providence. Most recently, Montana’s two Providence hospitals were part of a merger in July between Washington-based Providence and St. Joseph Health of California. The move formed the nation’s third-largest nonprofit health system, with 50 hospitals and more than 100,000 employees in Montana and six other states.

That changed the formal parent company name to Providence St. Joseph Health. Fee said the move was good for business.

“It’s a big deal,” he told the Missoulian at the time. “You’ve got two large organizations coming together to form a much larger organization. It better positions us in a lot of the key markets, certainly it better positions us in southern California, to create better systems of care for people in those communities that we serve.”

On Friday, Fee said he leaves “with immense pride as I step aside after a very successful career with Providence.”

“Ten years is a long time to be in a chief executive role,” he said. “When taking on the role of CEO, you sign up for things like this to happen. It comes with the territory. I’ve had a fantastic run and I love Montana.”

Dombrouski joined Providence St. Patrick in 1995. In 1999 she became vice president of marketing and communication and later served as vice president and then head of nursing before becoming chief acute services officer in 2011.

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