Hart labels career at hospital ‘fulfilling,’ sets his sights on new position at Valley Family Health Care

Saint Alphonsus Medical Center President Ken Hart helps hand out food boxes recently at the Ontario hospital. (The Enterprise/Kezia Setyawan).

ONTARIO – Ken Hart said his decision to step down as president of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario and accept an offer from Valley Family Health Care was all about the timing.

“With just me in my profession and my family life, it seemed like it was a good time to do this,” said Hart.

Hart – a certified public accountant – said an opportunity to get back to finance also helped spur his decision.

Hart will close out a seven-year stint – including three as president – with Saint Alphonsus on Aug. 2. He is excited about his new post as chief financial officer for Valley Family Health in Payette.

“They, like St. Al’s Ontario, really focus on serving the community. I couldn’t think of a better spot to go than Valley Family to continue to serve the community,” said Hart.

Hart’s position at the hospital will be reconfigured to a president/chief nursing officer slot, said Odette Bolano, president and chief executive officer of the Saint Alphonsus Health Systems in Boise. Dina Ellwanger will serve as the interim president and chief nursing officer of the hospital, Bolano said in a July 16 memo.

The Saint Alphonsus Health System is part of Trinity Health System based in Michigan.

Hart will walk away from the Ontario medical center with an impressive list of accomplishments.

He began his career with Saint Alphonsus in 2013 and filled roles such as foundation director and vice president of operations and chair of the Saint Alphonsus Health System Planning and Finance Committee.

Before he worked at the hospital, Hart was chief financial officer of the Gentry Auto Group and served as the press secretary for former U.S. Sen. Mark O. Hatfield. Hart also serves as a board member of the Malheur County Poverty to Prosperity organization.

As the director of the foundation, Hart spearheaded the drive to raise more than $500,000 for the hospital’s new maternity unit and oversaw an ambitious, $50 million hospital renovation project. During his time as president, Hart also boosted the hospital’s physician engagement scores from one of the lowest in the Trinity Health System to one of the highest. Physician engagement scores are part of an annual survey of doctors that ask questions about quality of staff, safety at the hospital and their view of hospital leadership.

Hart said the work of the hospital foundation – particularly with its scholarship programs for area youth – is one of his roles he will miss the most.

“I love that piece of being involved with the school districts,” said Hart. “It has been hugely fulfilling for me as an Ontario resident.”

Hart said the program handed out about $20,000 in scholarship during the past three years with 30 or so students receiving between $500 to $1,000.

Hart said he will also miss the daily interaction with hospital staff and patients.

“I love being able to talk to folks. We don’t do that now because of their safety and our safety but I miss that,” said Hart.

Hart said he will also miss the “town halls” sessions the hospital sponsors each quarter, though since the Covid epidemic such events have been on hold.

“We get everyone together in a big room and give an update and talk about strategic plan and I really enjoyed that part of the job. That stopped in March and Zoom and Webx are not the same,” said Hart.

Hart said the success of Saint Alphonsus in Ontario revolves “the people, our providers and staff.”

Hart said the top job was challenging.

“You have a lot of responsibility. Providing health care is difficult and leading an organization in a rural environment is even more so, especially challenging is recruiting folks to our community,” said Hart.

When Hart departs, he will transition from overseeing more than 400 employees to about a dozen in the Valley Family Health Finance Department.

“It is just going to be different and a new challenge,” said Hart. “I am a CPA. I very much enjoy finance. So, I am looking forward to that.”

Hart said Valley Family Health is “doing so many things.”

“I am just really excited to learn all of the different things they are involved with,” said Hart.

Hart said he will depart satisfied the hospital is moving ahead on a positive path.

“I think we have a great team. I feel very, very good about the hospital and the leadership team,” said Hart.

 News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-235-1003.


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