Pioneer Place, the care facility in Vale, has a new CEO, Mark Mahoney. (Enterprise file photo)

VALE – Mark Mahoney realized he wanted to make a difference in the long-term care profession more than 20 years ago, when he worked as an emergency medical technician transferring elderly patients from hospitals to nursing homes.

What he saw, he said, changed his outlook.

“The facilities were in pretty bad shape. I was thinking, how is this possible? And that kind of set the bug,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney would go on to become a corporate and LifeFlight helicopter pilot but said he always kept coming back to the sense he could do more in the long-term care field.

Mahoney stepped into the Pioneer Place facility administrator slot Oct. 1, replacing Chris Monroe, who retired.

“I am just getting settled and getting to know the team and residents,” said Mahoney.

Pioneer Place is a government entity providing skilled nursing, assisted living and rehabilitation services.

A five-member board of local residents oversees Pioneer Place. It opened in 2003 and employs between 70 to 80 people with a payroll of about $3.2 million.

Mahoney said as a LifeFlight helicopter pilot, he developed connections with hospital and long-term care facility administrators who encouraged him to think about a second career after he stepped away from the cockpit.

“I thought, you know, I could do this,” he said.

Mark Mahoney says he's realizing a dream and a long-held goal as he takes the CEO job at Pioneer Place in Vale. (The Enterprise/PAT CALDWELL)

Mahoney, 52, retired as a pilot in 2014 and immediately started his education in long-term health care.

He said he earned his undergraduate degree in business administration from the University of Cumberland in Williamsburg, Kentucky, then acquired a master’s degree in health care administration from Louisiana State University. He is now working on a doctorate in health care administration.

He’s worked in the long-term health care field as an administrator for about two years.

“It has been a long road but I am glad I did it,” said Mahoney.

Mahoney, a California native, said his philosophy as a manager is to “treat everyone with respect.”

Mahoney said working in a long-term health care facility was “my passion for like 30 years.”

“This has really been a dream. I am super committed to this business. My passion is to serve and give these residents the best care I can,” he said.

 “The work itself is very difficult. There is not an easy job in this facility. It takes the right kind of person to serve and do this kind of work,” said Mahoney.

Now, said Mahoney, his most serious obstacle is maintaining staffing levels because of Covid.

He said Covid hasn’t hit Pioneer Place as hard as it has other facilities across the state and the nation. And the state’s mandate that took hold on Monday also hasn’t had a big impact.

“We’ve lost two so it has been a very small impact. But it is affecting facilities all across the county. They are losing 10 to 20 percent of their staff and they are already short staffed,” said Mahoney.

Covid also was responsible for Monroe’s departure.

Monroe said he wasn’t comfortable with Gov. Kate Brown’s mandate that health care workers in the state be vaccinated. With 43 years in the long-term health care field, Monroe said he decided it was time to go.

“But for the mandate, I’d still be working there,” said Monroe.

Monroe also said conditions at long-term health care facilities have changed drastically since he began his career.

“The way it was when I started is not the way I want to see it again as far as quality care we give to residents. I am really proud of the long-term care and the quality of care the residents now receive,” said Monroe.

Monroe said his 14 months at Pioneer Place was the best of his career.

“Pioneer Place is head and shoulders above any other place I’ve worked and I will miss them a lot,” said Monroe.

For Mahoney, he’s determined to learn as much as he can about his new role and the people in the facility.

“I want to build relationships with residents, their families and my team,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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