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Gossens honored for contributions to Porter

SALISBURY — Gerry Gossens has collected his share of hardware and accolades for his service in the state Legislature and on the leadership boards of more than a dozen local and statewide nonprofits.
Now Gossens’ volunteer contributions have been recognized throughout New England. The Salisbury resident this month received the New England Healthcare Assembly’s (NEHA) “Trustee Leadership Award,” conferred annually on a hospital trustee in the Northeast who has made exceptional contributions to the health care industry.
Gossens, one of only a few Vermonters even to win the NEHA award, was recognized in his capacity as member of the Porter Hospital Board of Trustees. All told, he has thus far spent 15 years on various boards within the Porter Medical Center organization.
“There are hospital trustees from every New England state that are nominated for this award,” Porter Hospital spokesman Ron Hallman said. “You have an incredible pool of very talented, experienced and committed people. To be recognized at the top of that list, like Gerry was, is testament to his incredible career of service to Porter and many other organizations throughout Addison County and Vermont.”
Gossens was pleased with the award, presented to him during a Dec. 8 ceremony in Boston, but said his colleagues should share the credit.
“I wish (the award) could have been given to the entire board,” Gossens said. “I am a little embarrassed; everyone on the board is a volunteer.”
But Gossens is being too modest, according to Porter Medical Center President James Daily.
“I can state, without hesitation or reservation, that during my 27 years as the President/CEO of Porter Medical Center … I have never worked with a board member who has served more diligently or exhibited greater leadership qualities and or a stronger commitment to our organization and community than Gerry Gossens,” Daily wrote in a letter of support for Gossens’ nomination.
Daily said Gossens has brought a great breadth of insights and expertise to his role on the Porter board. He cited his legislative experience, as both a state senator and representative, in shaping — and at times rescuing — Porter’s budgets during increasingly challenging financial times.
“Our frequent challenges/interfaces with state government regarding the Medicaid program and advocating for adequate reimbursement for both our hospital and nursing home were (and continue to be) significant issues for our boards to address,” Daily said. “Gerry’s connections, relationships, insights and experiences … with key policy makers served Porter Medical Center very well and allowed us greater access and leverage as we advocated for policies to allow us to support our community mission.”
Daily added that Gossens “exhibited the highest degree of ethical and moral character and consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to ensuring that the delivery of high quality, compassionate care and access to our services were paramount in all of our decisions.”
Daily recalled Gossens as a key board leader during 1999 to 2000, when Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center was forced to apply for “extraordinary financial relief” from the state after experiencing a one-year operating loss of approximately $1 million.
“This was a very difficult process which, if not successful, would have threatened the very existence of our nursing home,” Daily said. “Gerry played a vital role in helping us advocate for this special enhanced Medicaid rate for a period of time that allowed our nursing home to restructure its operations and reduce expenses in order to ensure its survival moving forward.”
Gossens is also credited with playing a key role in the deliberations that led to Porter Hospital transitioning to a “Critical Access Hospital,” or CAH, in 2005. “This transition was very complex, challenging and extremely controversial within our medical staff and required strong leadership,” Daily said. “It was probably one of the most difficult periods in the history of Porter Hospital; however, we emerged a stronger organization and have reaped significant financial benefit from this CAH designation that has been essential to the fiscal health of our organization.”
Gossens, a retired U.S. intelligence officer, has a civic resume that includes stints on many boards. He has served on the boards of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Fletcher Allen Health Care, the Addison County Parent-Child Center, the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, the United Way of Addison County, the Salisbury selectboard, the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, the Vermont Water Resources Board, Addison County Home Health & Hospice, the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, and most recently on the Vermont Apportionment Board.
He recently re-upped for what he indicated would be his final three years on the Porter Hospital board.
Gossens said he has long held an interest in health care matters, and as such was happy to serve on the various Porter Medical Center boards.
He has seen a lot of changes in the industry during the past 15 years, and will see many more in the next as Vermont moves toward a single-payer health care system. Recent years have seen hospitals in Vermont and other states struggle with a diminishing federal reimbursement rate for Medicaid- and Medicare-insured patients, he noted.
“What has really changed over the years has been the complexity of the system, what the hospital board has had to deal with,” Gossens said. “There are so many moving parts these days to health care reform.
“Board members have to be committed to keeping up with these changes,” he added. “So much is in flux right now. The stakes are pretty high.”
Hallman and other Porter officials are pleased to have Gossens at their table for another three years and are glad he has received a regional accolade.
“We are really thrilled all of his hard work and his many years of service were honored in this very public and significant way,” Hallman said. “We are thrilled with everything he has done for us. It is nice that he gets this recognition, which he would never seek for himself.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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