OMC taps new board appointee

Eight hopefuls were considered

Phyllis Bernard.

Phyllis Bernard.

PORT ANGLES — The Olympic Medical Center commissioners have appointed Phyllis Bernard as its new member at large, filling the seat left vacant by Heather Jeffers, who left June 30 after accepting a new position when she relocated to Oregon.

The board interviewed eight applicants in an open public session at its June 14 meeting and made the selection during its Wednesday afternoon work session.

Applicants included Dr. Gerald Stephanz, a volunteer Internal Medicine doctor; Dr. Ed Hackie, who specializes in Emergency Internal Medicine; former Clallam County Administrator Jim Jones; retired physical therapist Doug Beattie; former Patient Experience Director for OMC Patti Haught; retired Healthcare Administrator Nancy Field; and retired Hospital Administrator Gary Vihinen.

Vihinen withdrew himself from consideration for the appointment, according to OMC Communications Director Bobby Beeman.

“We stretched this process out a lot longer than needed,” OMC Board Chair Thom Hightower said, referring to the May notice of Jeffers’ resignation. “We want to thank all of the candidates who applied for making this a difficult decision to make.”

During the work session, Hightower asked the board to nominate the candidates it would like to see move forward in the selection process, and Bernard was the overwhelming favorite.

“I appreciate the support of the board of commissioners. They are a great group of people, doing great work under sometimes challenging circumstances and I look forward to learning from them how best I can help to share and carry the load,” Bernard said in a phone call Wednesday.

Bernard also appears to be the first woman of color to serve on the OMC board.

“I think that I should not be surprised by that, just simply because of the demographics out here,” Bernard said.

“On the other hand, I have always been a person who loves the outdoors and engaging in a lot of activities that don’t necessarily seem suitable for densely populated metropolitan areas where one is more likely to find more people of color.”

Bernard has previously served on the Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic and has worked as a corporate lawyer for several industries from healthcare to public utilities.

She has also taught at Peninsula College and offered talks to inmates at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.

She is also part of the large boating community in the Port Angeles Boat Haven.

“This is a wonderful area,’” Bernard said. “My husband and I chose to be here in the third chapter of our lives, and essential to that is having access to good health care.”

During the June 14 interview, Bernard told the board that part of her interest in the position was to do something useful.

“My personal goal is to feel useful,” Bernard said. “Especially when I see around me, national forces, that I have grappled with for decades, starting to threaten harm to this hospital district — If there is anything that I might be able to offer, that people could use, I’d like to be there and at least show up.”

Bernard said the role of the board is oversight of the hospital.

“It’s our job as a board to make sure that things are handled the way they are supposed to be under the law,” Bernard said. “Generally speaking, that’s an oversight responsibility. We are not supposed to put our nose in and try to micro-manage anything.”

Bernard believes politics and the need for expensive locum tenens to fill in staff needs are the two biggest issues facing OMC right now.

“A 247 percent increase, year over year, that not only drains the coffers, but I can only suspect must demoralize the staff that is full-time here,” Bernard said.

Much of OMC’s financial burdens are due to the cost of paying for locum tenens to staff some of its open provider positions, particularly in the emergency and anesthesiology departments.

“We need to increase the attractiveness of being here full-time,” Bernard said.

Bernard will be sworn in during the board’s next meeting on July 19.

________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com

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