Tower Health and Drexel University, which jointly own St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, on Tuesday said that they had selected Donald Mueller as permanent chief executive of the North Philadelphia safety-net hospital, effective July 27.

Mueller, 49, will come to Philadelphia after five years at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger, a 128-bed facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., that is part of Erlanger Health System, a nonprofit with $1 billion in annual revenue. Financial details on the Erlanger children’s hospital were not available.

Donald Mueller will become CEO of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children on July 27.
Tower Health
Donald Mueller will become CEO of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children on July 27.

“It is an honor to join the amazing team at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to strengthen and grow one of the most important health-care facilities in the Philadelphia region,” Mueller said in a news release.

Among Mueller’s accomplishments at Erlanger was recruiting more than 50 sub-specialty physicians, Drexel and Tower said. He also helped raise $46 million to upgrade the hospital’s facilities, and oversaw planning and design for a new 100,000-square-foot ambulatory-care center.

Mueller, who had been at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for 15 years before going to Erlanger, was the top pick of both medical staff and management at St. Chris, one doctor there said.

He will replace Ronald Dreskin, who has been interim CEO since December, when Tower and Drexel bought St. Christopher’s out of bankruptcy for $50 million in a deal that did not include the real estate. Dreskin was part of the EisnerAmper restructuring team that then-owner Joel Freedman brought to Philadelphia last year in a bid to save St. Chris and the now-shuttered Hahnemann University Hospital from bankruptcy.

Mueller will take over a 188-bed hospital that has been losing significant amounts of money. From December through March, St. Christopher’s had a $24 million operating loss on $88 million in revenue, according to Tower’s financial statements.

Tower recently announced that it was cutting about 1,000 jobs, or 8% of its workforce, as it contends with COVID-19 fallout and other problems. The nonprofit, based in West Reading and anchored by Reading Hospital, paid $418 million in 2017 for five community hospitals in Southeastern Pennsylvania: Brandywine in Coatesville, Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, Jennersville Regional in West Grove, Phoenixville, and Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, now called Pottstown Hospital.

Even though hospitals have reopened for non-urgent care, many patients remain reluctant to get treatment because of worries about the coronavirus. That means health systems are expecting losses to continue in the fiscal year that started July 1.