New Riverside CEO ‘at home’

Heather Latter

The new president and CEO of Riverside Health Care feels as though he has returned “home.”
Theodore (Ted) Scholten began his new position April 1, but this isn’t his first time working in the health-care system locally.
Scholten owned an occupational therapy consulting services business in Fort Frances.
He also was Riverside’s director of occupational therapy from 1990-95, where he planned, organized, and directed such services for the district.
“It feels like I’ve returned home,” Scholten said last week. “It’s a very comfortable feeling.
“I have lots of contacts, friends through both my wife’s friends, my former contacts, and my in-laws.”
Scholten is married to Kathleen (Medhurst) who was born and raised in Fort Frances.
They have two sons, Josh, 20 and Jeremy, 17.
“My youngest son and I enjoy fishing,” Scholten noted. “And as a family, we came back every year in July around the bass tournament.
“It was a great opportunity to see old friends,” he explained, adding they also came back regularly for holidays.
“In the earlier years, when the boys were young, we were here quite frequently,” Scholten said.
“We’d do a road trip for the weekend—it was 800 miles door-to-door,” he noted, joking they could drive the route to and from Fort Wayne, Ind. with their eyes closed.
Scholten currently is living with his father-in-law, Doug Medhurst. But when the time is right, he and his wife will be looking for a home to buy in the area—preferably on the lake.
His wife, who works for a visiting nurses and hospice home, plans to remain in Fort Wayne until their youngest son completes high school.
They also have their home there to sell so she will be joining her husband later on this year.
While their sons have made friends here through their visits over the years, it’s possible they both will be attending university in British Columbia in the fall.
Josh currently attends Ball State University in Muncie, where he is studying actuarial science, while Jeremy is hoping to study environmental science.
Scholten noted with his youngest son set to graduate from high school this year, the timing for a new position was right.
“I had applied for the position before and was keeping an eye on the opportunity,” he remarked.
“And when we were here at Christmas, I had heard the gentleman who was here was not renewing his contract, so there was an opportunity to apply.
“It was an opportunity to return to the area,” he enthused.
Scholten recently served as Chief Operating Officer of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne (RHFW), one of two free-standing facilities that are part of Community Health Systems.
Prior to that, he held positions of increasing responsibility, including division director of in-patient rehabilitation at Lutheran Hospital of Indiana and RHFW, director of clinical services at the RHFW, and manager of occupational therapy there.
He also was an adjunct professor in the University of St. Francis Occupational Therapy Assistant Program in Fort Wayne.
Although he’s only been in his new role for a few weeks now, Scholten feels he’s settling in well.
He did have some overlap time to learn from the outgoing CEO Allan Katz. But on his first official day, Scholten helped host Riverside’s annual Quarter-Century Club banquet.
“And here’s the irony of it. Had I stayed, I would have been honoured that night,” Scholten remarked.
“It was great because I knew a ton of people, saw a lot of old faces, and it was a cool opportunity for me to connect with lots of seasoned employees and volunteers,” he noted.
Scholten also said he learned a lot from Katz during his brief time with him.
“He took me around to Emo, Rainy River, and Rainycrest, as well as around the hospital here,” he noted.
“He showed me the lay of the land, which was a nice way for him to say good-bye and for me to say hello.”
Scholten also was able to sit in on a strategic plan update from the 2013-16 strategic plan prior to Katz leaving.
“Having the opportunity to transition with Mr. Katz, he was a tremendous communicator,” Scholten said.
“He did a lot for our hospital in terms of readiness for accreditation,” noting they have Accreditation Canada coming in October.
“His connections with the Northwest LHIN and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care division has brought the hospital in good readiness position for the survey this year,” Scholten added.
“He did a lot of work related to governance, and improving the hospital’s overall functions with [the] board and relationships with the LHIN.
“Katz did a fantastic job in making those connections with Riverside,” he added.
Scholten feels Riverside is in good shape for the future.
“I believe the Rainy River District is in a unique position in that we have probably the closest integration to the model that they are looking for in terms of health hubs, with Fort Frances being the main hub and the other two locations in Rainy River and Emo as the satellite sites,” he explained.
“We are able to provide the right care at the right place,” he adding, noting Riverside has the long-term care component with Rainycrest, as well as supportive housing.
“So with those four components, we are unlike any other organization in terms of the integration that’s already in place.
“We’re well-positioned for what the Ministry of Health and the LHINs are expecting from an organization in terms of integration,” he stressed.
But Scholten also said there have been a number of changes since he worked at Riverside 20 years ago.
“There is now a brand-new facility in Rainy River,” he noted, adding the hospitals all look great.
And with some new equipment, such as the CT Scanner and digital mammography unit, Scholten said Riverside is well-positioned in terms of capital equipment.
“It’s incredible what the community accomplishes in terms of donations from [the] auxiliaries and [health care] foundation,” he enthused.
“The giving of the community is second-to-none,” he noted. “That’s part of the draw that made me want to come back—the people.
“And the commitment of the physicians is also extraordinary,” Scholten added while also noting he’s aware of the need to work on physician recruitment.
“Obviously, we want residents of the Rainy River District to receive equitable access to care close to home,” he stressed.
Scholten said he’s learning the ropes and meeting with the board members to establish and determine what they feel the priorities are.
“We don’t want to veer too far away from our strategic plan,” he remarked.
“As an integrated district network, we have a place and a role to play, and we want services maintained and [that] the access is appropriately maintained for the residents of the district.”
Scholten feels the vision for Riverside is going to evolve as he settles in and gets to know the management team.
“It’s never built on the vision of one person,” he stressed. “But the success that we have is going to be based on my ability to monopolize the strengths of our individual team members.
“We have a senior management team that has invested a lot of time and effort to this community.”
Scholten also vowed to work with the senior management team, the board, physicians, and district residents to determine where Riverside is going.
“I’ve matured as a leader and I’ve had some success where I came from, and I’m hoping I’m able to apply what I’ve learned as a Chief Operating Officer at a facility that had some of the top patient satisfaction and employee engagement scores in the company,” he noted.
“When you have happy staff, you have happy patients and residents,” he reasoned.
“One translates to the other.
“So we want to build the engagement of our employees such that they are proud of where they work and they provide great care because they enjoy what they’re doing,” Scholten said.
“It’s up to us to provide a healthy and supportive work environment so people look forward to coming to work.”
“Ted was an excellent fit for our search for a leader who will continue to support Riverside’s vision to provide exceptional and compassionate health care, inspired by the people we serve, and valued by our communities,” said board chair Norma Elliott.
She added health care in Ontario—and rural and Northern Ontario, in particular—is going through some significant transformations.
“The board members are confident that Ted has the executive and personal qualities to represent Riverside locally and regionally as we work with our partners on improving the health care system across the district,” Elliott remarked.
Originally from Saint John, N.B., Scholten possesses an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy from Dalhousie University and a Masters of Health Science degree from the University of Indianapolis.
He also is a member of a number of professional associations, including the Indiana Hospital Association, the IHA Brain Injury Association, and the Administration-Management section of the American Occupational Therapy Association.