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St. Charles CEO Announces Plans To Step Down

BEND, OR -- After nearly eight years as president and CEO of St. Charles Health System, Joe Sluka announced he will step down from the role.

“I am so proud of this organization and the more than 4,500 employees who put their hearts into caring for our communities every single day. This is a very difficult decision,” Sluka said in a statement released by the health system. “At the same time, after leading through more than two years of a global pandemic and the corresponding recovery I feel it is time for me to step aside, recharge and provide the opportunity for new operational leaders to guide St. Charles forward.”

Dr. Steve Gordon, a health care executive and former member of the St. Charles Board of Directors, will take on the interim CEO role as Sluka transitions to a strategic advisor position. Gordon, a primary care and internal medicine physician by training, has worked as a health care management consultant with Point B, Inc. since 2016. Previously, he served in executive leadership roles for PeaceHealth in Vancouver, Wash., Providence Health and Services in Portland and Salem Health. He is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

“Having spent several years on the St. Charles Board of Directors, I understand the unique role our health system plays in the Central Oregon community. I am energized to build on Joe’s legacy and advance and strengthen St. Charles despite the current challenges the health care industry faces,” Gordon said. “I will continue to work closely with Joe in his strategic advisor role and am grateful that I’ll have his support, insight and ideas moving forward.”

During Sluka’s time at the helm, St. Charles officials say the organization grew into a robust regional health care system. Some highlights include:

  • Implementation of a Lean management system focused on a culture of continuous improvement
  • Construction of a new patient tower, including state-of-the-art ICU, at St. Charles Bend
  • Transition to the Epic electronic health record platform
  • Expansions and remodels of both St. Charles Madras and St. Charles Prineville campuses
  • Expansion of services in Redmond including robotic surgery
  • Opening of additional outpatient clinics in La Pine and Bend South
  • A long list of patient safety and quality awards for hospitals and clinics throughout the system

“Joe’s leadership through a period of growth for the health system and throughout the past very challenging two years of a global pandemic have been exemplary,” said Jamie Orlikoff, chairman of the St. Charles Board of Directors. “He has been a reassuring and trusted voice to the Central Oregon community and has also been an important advocate for health care resources at the state and national level. On behalf of the entire board, I would like to thank Joe for his service.”

In addition to his role as president and CEO of St. Charles, Sluka also served as chairman of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems Board of Directors for two years through the height of the pandemic.

“Joe served as OAHHS board chair for the two most challenging years of the pandemic, 2020 and 2021. During that time, he guided the association through uncharted waters, as Oregon’s hospitals and health systems collaborated to take care of patients during surges, to navigate changing regulatory requirements, to vaccinate Oregonians, and to serve as the only door that was always open when Oregonians needed care,” said OAHHS CEO Becky Hultberg. “He has been a leader, a trusted colleague, a friend and mentor to Oregon hospital leaders throughout the state. It is with sadness and our deepest gratitude that we wish him well on his departure from St. Charles Health System.”

The leadership transition will take place this week and the St. Charles Board will begin a national search for a permanent replacement.

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