GVH hires general surgeon, radiologist but still short staffed

Another 67 positions remain unfilled

[  By Katherine Nettles  ]

Gunnison Valley Health (GVH) is making some strides in hiring for key positions in the overall hospital system, but continues to struggle in filling a large number of needed positions due to the housing squeeze. In a report to Gunnison County commissioners last week, GVH CEO Jason Amrich said GVH has had some hiring success lately and needs to navigate a changing industry for traveling nurses and most of all, find more employee housing for hiring and retention incentives. And despite many open positions, the travel position costs weigh heavily on the system’s personnel budget.  

 Amrich explained to commissioners on Tuesday, September 6 that on the positive side, GVH recently hired a full-time general surgeon, and a full-time radiologist will be starting in January. The radiologist is reportedly building a house in the Gunnison Valley, “So we know he’ll have housing here,” said Amrich. GVH also announced a new chief medical officer, which “created that senior clinical physician leader we have been looking for,” said Amrich. He noted that it has been about four years since GVH had someone in this position. Amrich said they are also interviewing for a chief executive nursing officer, and have some internal candidates in addition to external interest. That position should be announced by mid-October.

In less promising news, Amrich said hiring overall is still a challenge for GVH and housing is a main culprit.

“About 7% of our staff is a travel position. We have 29 travelers in the system, 18 in the hospital and 11 in senior care services. We also have 67 open positions, both part-time and full-time. Even though we have that many open positions our salary impacts are still high because we have that many travel positions.”

The GVH website lists 77 open positions, ranging from cooks and housekeepers to nursing staff, technologists and specialists.

Amrich said the impact on the organization is that multiple staff members are taking on multiple roles, “While we are trying to move forward. It makes things really difficult.”

GVH vice president of administrative operations Wade Baker noted that the travel nurse bubble has burst somewhat too. He described a decreasing pool of travel candidates since pricing has come down and that many travelers are leaving the industry after having done it for a few years.

Baker said GVH’s current housing count is 22 units, with 16 online. GVH owns 10 Elk Crest condos located to the east of the hospital, and three are currently housing EMS staff while they work on shift. 

“We are in the process of installing a temporary trailer for EMS while we move to build the new EMS station,” said Baker.  One unit was under lease with the former owner as a condition of the sale, and since the former owner recently moved, repairs are being made. This unit will be online in October. GVH has master leases on eight units at Paintbrush, and current access to seven. “We are expecting the last unit to come online at the end of October,” said Baker, and one purchased home recently purchased by GVH is also being repaired. 

“Three of the six units will be available by the end of October and we are hopeful that EMS trailer will be online no later than November, allowing the final three of our 22 to be online,” he said. 

Amrich said there are three competing needs: traveler demand, because “often travelers won’t come unless we have housing;” recruiting demand, and existing employees who are coming forward more and more with housing needs as they get displaced. He said GVH is trying to participate in the next Lazy K’s lottery in Gunnison and has reached out to Gunnison Rising as well. “We have not been able to make that connection yet,” he said. 

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