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A long-time leader in local healthcare will step down effective July 1.
Gordon Winkler will retire after 34 years as Chief Executive Officer at Ringgold County Hospital (RCH).
Winkler grew up in a suburb of Detroit, MI. During high school he worked at a local community drug store, and that’s where he says he first became interested in pharmacy as a possible career.
Following high school graduation, he enrolled in the pharmacy program at the University of Iowa and interned at the Mercy Hospital pharmacy in Iowa City.
During this time, he found his interests lay in the broader scope of the healthcare field, and after graduating with an undergraduate degree general science, he went on to earn his masters degree in Hospital and Health Administration.
After serving an administrative residency at Mercy in Iowa City, Winkler served as an interim administrator at Webster City until he was hired as administrator at RCH in June 1987.
Winkler said he and his wife Linda were attracted to Mount Ayr for several reasons.
The location was closer to Linda’s family in Malvern, plus Ringgold County favored Winkler’s hobbies of hunting, fishing, and golf.
Professionally, RCH was a member of the Mercy system, with which he was already familiar. As a young administrator, Mercy afforded him the opportunity to serve as the CEO of a large organization.
One major attraction, he said, was the Mount Ayr school system which provided his two daughters opportunities to participate in a large number of activities, a choice not provided in his large urban high school.
Upon arrival in Mount Ayr, Winkler said one ongoing challenge was the physical infrastructure of the old RCH site in Sheldon Heights, which opened in 1951.
With the emergence of technology in the healthcare field, RCH faced space constraints while attempting to add new equipment.
Another continuing challenge was the hiring of new physicians.
RCH took steps to address this problem when it acquired the private practice of Dr. Duane Mitchell and developed it into the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic. The clinic setting allowed new physicians to come to town without the expense of buying a private practice outright.
The construction of a new hospital building on Highway 169 in 2009 addressed many of the space issues and allowed the hospital to expand its surgery and emergency capabilities.
While Winkler counted the new facility as one of the highlights of his career, he said another highlight was the hospital’s ability to develop its staff to learn new skills and transition into new positions with greater responsibilities, such as IT director, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant.
Winkler said the past year’s pandemic has posed unexpected challenges, the greatest of which was finding the right answers to fit the organization’s response to the pandemic.
Looking forward, Winkler sees access to healthcare in a time of ever increasing costs as a challenge to the healthcare field.
Personally, Winkler has no plans to leave Mount Ayr, except for one special trip east.
“It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen my grandsons in Virginia.”
Otherwise, he plans to re-prioritize his life around family, hunting, fishing, and golf.
“This is such a great community to live in,” he concluded. “I’ve developed great friendships and hospital relationships. I appreciate the opportunity that first board gave me.”