The chief executive officer of Grande Ronde Hospital is the longest serving hospital CEO in Oregon.
Grande Ronde Hospital marked the official opening of its new Regional Medical Center on Fourth Street in May, 2009. The 13,557-square-foot clinic is targeted to eventually employ 70 people. Observer file photo
Jim Mattes recently completed his 25th year as CEO of Grande Ronde Hospital.
Although he actually began working for GRH on a part-time basis in early September 1983, Mattes’ first official day at the helm was Jan. 1, 1984 — the date he considers his anniversary date.After searching association records, Andy Van Pelt of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Healthcare Systems confirmed that Mattes’ 25 years at GRH gives him the distinction of being the longest-serving CEO in Oregon.
Mattes jokes that he is the unofficial Oregon hospital historian, having served as an Oregon hospital CEO for 34 years.
His career includes three years at Malheur Memorial Hospital in Nyssa and six years in Lincoln City, prior to his coming to GRH.
He also holds the association’s record for having been the youngest hospital CEO. He was just 25 when he became CEO of Malheur Memorial Hospital.
His tenure at GRH is marked by steady growth.
According to GRH reports, that growth includes a significant increase in employees, $52 million increase in net worth and the elimination of long-term debt.
Two major construction projects and several remodels have expanded and improved the facility, and 17 new services and departments have been added.
Mattes is quick to redirect the spotlight to focus on the contributions of others.
“The success of these endeavors is really attributable to the efforts of so many people — from hard working staff who do the right things for the right reasons every day, to the various physicians and visionary hospital trustees who have provided dedicated service to the community, all of whom I have been privileged to work with over the last quarter-century,” he said.
Mattes is among a group of GRH employees whose long-term service brings experience and dedication to the hospital.
Including Mattes, there are 62 employees with 25 years of service or more at Grande Ronde Hospital — another anomaly in what is often a high-turnover industry.
In August 1983 Mattes was notified he had been selected from a field of more than 300 candidates to fill the vacant position of chief executive officer for Grande Ronde Hospital.
“Dr. Judge Hicks came to Portland and flew me to
La Grande for my interview and took me back the next day. I was offered the job via a telegram in September and immediately accepted,” Mattes said.
He gave four months’ notice to North Lincoln Hospital, where he had served as CEO since 1978. He provided consulting services to GRH while continuing to work in Lincoln City through the end of that year.
When Mattes took the helm in 1983, the hospital’s gross revenue was $11.5 million. The net worth stood at $4.1 million, including $1.2 million in board-designated reserves.
However, the hospital was also encumbered with nearly $7.7 million in long-term debt.
In comparison, for the 2009 fiscal year GRH reported more than $67.5 million in gross revenue and a net worth of $56 million, including nearly $22 million in board-designated reserves.
Currently, the hospital holds no long-term debt. With regards to personnel, a review of historical records shows that GRH had 312 employees in 1983. The official count for December 2009 was 505.
“The corporate structure of the hospital has also changed significantly,” said Mattes, adding the corporation’s name was changed from Eastern Oregon Medical Center Inc. to Grande Ronde Hospital Inc.
When asked what he sees as the single, biggest change in the past 25 years at GRH, Mattes said it has been the transition of physicians from independent contractors to employed physicians.
“We changed our business model to make the accommodation to the changing model,” he said.
He said the hospital went from employing no physicians or nurse practitioners to employing 30, including two more physicians who recently signed contracts and will start in 2010.
Mattes said the future will bring new challenges for the hospital. Two examples are the effects of a long economic recession and the impact of health care reform.
“Change can be a frightening thing, but the culture at Grande Ronde Hospital has always been one which initiates and embraces change,” he said. “I believe we will rise to the challenge and emerge as an even stronger and better organization.”
Following is a list of departments and services the hospital has added since 1983.
• Home Health and Hospice
• In-house Emergency Physicians
• Nuclear Medicine
• Computed Axial Tomography (or CT) scans
• Magnetic Resonance Imaging
• Health Information Systems
• Grande Ronde Hospital Foundation
• Infection Control
• Family Birthing Center
• Public Relations
• Quality/Risk Management
• Technical Services
• The GRH Women’s Clinic
• The GRH Children’s Clinic
• The GRH Regional Medical Clinic
• Oncology services