Aspen hospital board budgets for raises and $3M for employee housing |

Aspen hospital board budgets for raises and $3M for employee housing

Aspen Valley Hospital has agreed to give staff a 5% raise. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen Valley Hospital’s board of directors adopted a 2022 budget Monday that includes a $3 million expenditure on employee housing, staff-wide raises of 5%, and the $15.8 million implementation of a new patient-records system.

The budget also considers $49 million for employee salaries for 2022, which is 14.14% more than the nearly $43 million in pay projected for this year. AVH CEO David Ressler said the public hospital’s budget factors in another 28 full-time employees on its roster next year, which would expand the staff to 445.4 full-timers.

The Epic medical records software the hospital is launching will need a staff of seven full-time employees, as well as another worker in IT, he said.

The raises will come after employees registered their concerns in letters to hospital executives and board members, resulting in a series of town-hall style meetings, including one most recently as two weeks ago.

In his opening remarks to a budget presentation from the hospital’s finance team, Ressler referred to a nationwide “staffing crisis that all industries are facing at one level or another, but health care is particularly hard impacted by the various forces we’ve talked about so many times, COVID being principal among them.”

The hospital also is honing in on its employee turnover among newer staff, Ressler said.

“Our emphasis has been on first-year turnover, and that continues to be high,” said Ressler, noting that the turnover rate was 46% over the last 12 months for first-year employees at AVH.

“Housing is obviously a contributing factor, but also a very tight labor market where even after they have accepted a role with us, they have other options and are constantly exploring those options,” he said.

AVH’S overall staff turnover rate stands at 19%, Ressler said, “which, frankly, most hospitals would consider very good, even under normal circumstances. But for us, we’re used to an extraordinarily low turnover rate, more like 13 to 15%, so that first year is driving our overall turnover rate up, and that’s why it’s been on our radar for some time.”

The hospital’s goal is to reduce first-year turnover rate by 5% overall in 2022, Ressler said.

AVH also is buying out the remaining 22½ months of its lease with Pitkin County on the old ambulance barn for $536,000, located on the hospital campus. As part of an intra-governmental agreement with the county, that figure will also cover AVH’s purchase price of the building.

“We’re expected to create, by purchasing that facility, 12 to 14 on-call rooms, which basically would actually relieve call rooms of our current inventory that we could turn into long-term housing,” said Ginette Sebenaler, the hospital’s chief financial officer.

AVH facilities director Stephen Selby said the review process with the city should be minimal.

“I would like to see this built and finished in 2022 or at the beginning of 2023,” he said.

The project is anticipated to cost $2.5 million, while another $500,000 will be used on improving the hospital’s existing housing inventory, Ressler said.

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