GVH feeling the housing squeeze for staff members

Hiring and retaining employees an increasing challenge

[ By Katherine Nettles ]

Gunnison Valley Hospital is yet another entity within the Gunnison Valley feeling the pain of an affordable housing shortage, even among its employees who are paid the highest wages. In a June 22 meeting with Gunnison County commissioners, GVH CEO Rob Santilli said affordable housing is a growing issue for the local hospital system and poses a challenge to hiring workers at all points on the wage spectrum. The hospital hopes to work out a solution by attaining some master leases for rentals to offer employees in addition to its stock of purchased units. Meanwhile the hospital has a list of several employees in jeopardy of losing their housing in the very near future.

GVH owns 11 townhomes that it uses primarily for transitional housing for employees being recruited to the valley. Three of those townhomes are currently being used by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff who are awaiting three new housing units to be delivered to the GVH campus and designed specifically for EMS. Those three units have been delayed in construction by several months due to supply issues. Two of the GVH townhomes are occupied by permanent staff members as well.

Santilli said they have a list of 11 current staff members that are losing their housing and may need to leave their position if they don’t find somewhere new to live soon. “We have reached out to the county and the college in search of more housing leads,” he said.

Santilli said they are hearing about this housing issue even among the highest paid staff, like surgeons. He said he would like the opportunity to get about 10 more master leases as well, rather than just buying more real estate.

GVH’s CFO Mark VanderVeer said there are also 43 open positions within the hospital system (that employs about 400 when fully staffed), or about 10 percent of its workforce. Santilli said that most likely 23 of those employees will be recruited from within the valley and will likely have current housing. “We anticipate 20 of those employees will be recruited from outside the valley and housing will be a critical issue,” he said. “There’s not a person that comes through the interview process for a job that doesn’t get wind that housing is a problem. And they are talking about, is there going to be a subsidy? Is it going to be factored in my pay somehow?”

Santilli said it isn’t just about what people earn, either. “Even a general surgeon we had this year said, ‘you know, I had a realtor when I went around and housing looks like it could be a problem,’” he reported.

“From service worker to surgeon, there is a lack of availability in housing stock, in variety and geographic location” said county commissioner chairperson Jonathan Houck. “One of the top priorities for us is the issue around housing right now.”
Santilli said other hospital systems in mountain towns across the state are having the same issue.

VanderVeer echoed that one of the top concerns consistently expressed by applicants is lack of local housing available. He said the other top question asked is about childcare.

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