Middle Park Health invests in staff
High costs of living, the third year of the pandemic and recent wildfires have hindered hiring at Middle Park Health, with the hospital short roughly 9% of total positions. Aiming to improve staff levels, Middle Park Health is dedicating $4 million to employee retention and recruitment.
CEO Jason Cleckler said the hospital’s past three years have been financially successful, which allowed officials to invest in bonuses, salary and wage adjustments and maintain health care benefits.
Currently, Middle Park Health has 25 open positions and 266 employees. Cleckler said his biggest hiring challenge is the lack of affordable or even available housing in the area, with even the hospital having trouble finding rentals.
“There’s a lot of excitement, but it really comes down to affordability and availability of housing,” he said. “We frequently are looking at rental agreements, but part of the challenge is all the other employers are as well.”
Of the $4 million to be spent, half will go to raising the entry wage to $17.50 per hour. Additionally, salaries and wages for existing staff will likely be adjusted following a regional salary study that Middle Park Health is working on. Salaries will also be increased for cost of living adjustments, while health care benefits will not see a price hike for the third year in a row.
“It’s time for us to reinvest in our employees and to give back to them, not only for what they’ve been through, but also to make sure we’re treating them well and paying a liveable wage for this area,” Cleckler said.
When it comes to retention, Cleckler said employees leave to move elsewhere or, lately, to take traveling positions, which pay premium rates and offer more flexible schedules.
Previously, in November, Middle Park gave its employees a “COVID retention bonus,” Cleckler said, to acknowledge all of the work hospital staff has done during the pandemic.
“The idea was really just to say thank you for weathering the storm, thank you for taking care of each other, as well as our residents and visitors,” he said.
Marketing and Community Relations Director Tiffany Freitag said that staff have been instrumental in helping to keep all of the hospital’s services up and running despite the open positions because they’re willing to be flexible.
However, Cleckler noted that it’s important for employees, especially in the health care industry, to have time to rest as well.
Beyond the monetary rewards, Middle Park is rolling out a wellness program to support staff’s mental health and address burn out, which remains a concern.
“It’s been really challenging for our health care providers to see what’s happening to folks with COVID,” Cleckler said. “We have a responsibility to the community and a responsibility to take care of the folks taking care of the community.”
Cleckler acknowledged that a one-time investment likely wouldn’t totally fix hiring and retention challenges, so Middle Park is planning for future years as well.
“We’re doing what we can this year, but we know that the challenges of living in a resort community will be ongoing for several years,” he said.
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