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Longtime board member says the health system and Jefferson County are in good hands.

TERESA JACKSON/MADRAS PIONEER - Mack GardnerWhen Mountain View Hospital became St. Charles Madras and joined the St. Charles Health System, Mack Gardner, who had been on the hospital board for 10 years, served on the St. Charles board "as kind of the due diligence piece," he said, making sure the transfer stayed on track.

That was a three-year appointment. When it ended, the St. Charles board asked if he would consider another three-year term, and he said yes. Three years later, he was invited for another term. At first he agreed but then changed his mind. He asked to serve one year instead, bringing his total to 17 years.

In December, he finished his term, as did Greg Van Pelt. The two positions are being filled by Corey Schmid and John Terhes. Schmid, from Bend, is a partner at Seven Peaks Ventures and leads the organization's digital health investment portfolio, according to a St. Charles news release. Terhes is a general surgeon in Eugene and serves on the Northwest Safety and Quality Partnership through the Washington State Hospital Association and Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, and he is a board member for the Oregon Research and Education Foundation.

With Gardner's departure, no one from Jefferson County is on the board. But that doesn't worry Gardner.

"I couldn't be happier with the two people they brought in to replace us," he said.

When he joined, he thought perhaps the board would primarily be concerned about Deschutes County, but he said that wasn't the case. He found them to be "thoughtful, considerate people" who served the community well.

That is the goal of the board, according to Jamie Orlikoff, the board chair.

"The St. Charles Health System Board of Directors is comprised of experts in a variety of areas including physicians, lawyers, compliance specialists, financial professionals and more. We recruit and select new board members based on the expertise needed on the board through a regular, annual review cycle. The board is not considered a 'representative board.' This means that we expect all board members to think of the good of the health system as a whole when making decisions, and not to represent a particular geographic area," Orlikoff said.

Gardner concurred. He said the board has all kinds of expertise, and it needs it. He said most of the hospital's doctors, including those at Madras Medical Group and Mosaic Medical who also attend patients at the hospital, will continue to have a voice, as will local administration.

"Health care is complex and it's technical, and it's way more than, 'What does the hospital do?'" he said.

The St. Charles Health System covers about 32,000 square miles, and Gardner said the Madras part of the system "is held accountable to the exact outcomes and metrics" that the others are. So the board is concerned about all of the area.

He said that since the transition, resources that were previously only available in Bend and Redmond — including more tests and another clinic — are now readily available in Madras and Prineville, as well.

"We've moved this hospital into the 21st century, and that's a real plus for the community," Gardner said. More tests are available now, and the hospital has added a clinic.

Gardner is planning to work on other projects and to spend more time with family.

"Mack always went above and beyond for us," said Dennis Dempsey, a long-time St. Charles Health System board member. "He will be greatly missed."

Gardner traveled all over the St. Charles area, going to all kinds of events and openings.

"Mack has been a positive presence in our St. Charles facilities and in our communities for many years," said Joe Sluka, president and CEO of St. Charles Health System. "We could always count on him to show up and support our people. He dedicated countless hours to improving health care for our communities and we are forever grateful for his service."

While transitioning Mountain View to St. Charles was controversial at the time, Gardner is convinced the Mountain View board made the right choice. He said the hospital boards in Madras and Prineville, which joined the system before Madras, "were forward-thinking, smart people."

He said a significant number of rural hospitals were forced to close around the same time. The Mountain View board approached St. Charles' CEO at the time and asked if the health system would consider taking on Mountain View.

"They just had more resources and they had more funding," Gardner said. "It was the only chance we had to survive."

He said Mountain View was careful with its finances, but it was difficult to get outside funding. The board wanted to get ahead of what could have been serious problems later.

"We did, and I think this community has benefited from that," he said.


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