County celebrates bringing Willows into health system

“We’re basically bringing it all together”

Resident Eleanor Munger is effusive in her praise for the staff who manage and staff her home at the Willows assisted care facility in Gunnison. “They actually care about the people—that’s what’s so wonderful,” she said.



Along with other Willows residents, healthcare providers and county officials, Ms. Munger was on hand Tuesday, March 18, to celebrate the integration of Willows into the Gunnison Valley Health Care System.
County commission chairman Hap Channell thanked the assembled crowd for their work to integrate Willows into the Gunnison Valley Health Care System. “A lot of people worked a long time to make this happen,” he said. “If it weren’t for you folks being the impetus for all these efforts on all of our behalves, it wouldn’t have happened,” he added.
According to Dr. Randy Phelps, CEO of the Gunnison Valley Health Care System, the integration of Willows is a milestone completing the process of bringing several of Gunnison County’s senior facilities into the unified health care system. “It will enable us to manage it more cost-effectively,” he said.
In a complicated transfer of assets and responsibilities to Gunnison County and the Gunnison Hospital board of trustees, Willows has now joined the Gunnison Healthcare Center, Gunnison Valley Hospice and the Gunnison Valley Hospital as part of the Gunnison Valley Health Care System. The system is governed under the auspices of Gunnison County.
The celebration marked the transfer of Willows from the Gunnison Home Association, and association president Don Crosby thanked all the participants. “I am very, very happy it has all happened the way it has,” he said in an emotional address to the people who were there to mark the occasion.
In an interview after his address, Crosby said the genesis of Willows and its adjacent nursing home neighbor, Gunnison Healthcare Center, was when the late Ben Jorgenson, an area entrepreneur and landowner, deeded several acres of land to accommodate senior facilities. “The deed to the property says it must be used for seniors,” said Crosby. “The Gunnison Home Association was created solely to develop the property,” he added.
Crosby said the Gunnison Healthcare Center was built in 1975 and Willows was completed in 2000. The senior recreational vehicle lot is also on land donated by the Jorgenson estate.
By integrating Willows into the local health care system, Crosby said, the facility was more financially secure. “It guarantees its stability and a long life,” he said.
Wade Baker, the chief administrator for Willows Gunnison Healthcare Center, said the Gunnison Hospital board of trustees, the county and the Gunnison Home Association worked together to ensure the success of Willows by integrating it into the Gunnison Valley Health Care System. “We’re basically bringing it all together,” he said.
Ms. Munger came to Gunnison to care for an Alzheimer patient, but then fell ill herself. After she got out of the Gunnison Valley Hospital, she came to live in the Gunnison Healthcare Center, which she said was an exceptionally clean facility, staffed by extremely caring individuals.
Ultimately, Ms. Munger became healthy enough to move over to Willows. “I think we are so lucky to have both of these facilities,” she said.
Ms. Munger’s neighbor, Norma Gooden, agrees. “This is a wonderful place to get to be taken care of,” she said. “They sure take good care of you.”

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