UVMHN breaks ground on second housing project, child care center for workers

Sunny Eappen, UVM Health Network President and CEO, discusses the second apartment building breaking ground in the South Burlington City Center area (behind Trader Joe's). The new facility for UVMHN employees will add 120 units on top of 61 that are nearing competition. The facility will also have a child care center. VermontBiz photos

Latest initiative represents continued crucial investments to recruit and retain staff

Vermont Business Magazine The University of Vermont Health Network held an official groundbreaking ceremony today to announce a second investment in new housing in South Burlington, this time with an apartment building that will include a child care facility for employees with families. Housing and child care are key issues nationally and they present a major obstacle to recruit and retain a health care workforce. The newest apartment building project is part of the Network’s ongoing plan to address these challenges and reduce the reliance on costly temporary workers.

UVMHN, with hospitals and health facilities on both the Vermont and New York sides of Lake Champlain, employs about 15,000 people.

The new building will have 120 apartment units ranging from studios to two bedrooms and the child care facility will have up 75 to spots focused on infants to Pre-K, which will be made available first to Network employees.

“It is vital for our Network to have enough providers and staff to meet the record level demand for health care services in our region,” said Sunny Eappen, MD, MBA, UVM Health Network President and Chief Executive Officer. “These projects represent a strategic investment to support our people and build a sustainable workforce as we reduce our reliance on temporary workers.”

“We must continue innovating and investing in order to recruit and retain talented employees,” said Al Gobeille, Chief Operating Officer of the UVM Health Network. “Investing in housing and child care is the result of listening to our employees and to the people who we try to recruit when they say that finding a place to live and access to high quality child care are two of the most pressing barriers for them.”

Earlier this year, the UVM Health Network announced a partnership with developer SnyderBraverman to build a 61-unit apartment building on Market Street in South Burlington. Construction on that building is well underway, and it is still on track to open for occupancy in March 2023. Existing employees and those interviewing for potential roles will soon be able to apply for the 61 apartments, with details to be made available by April 1, 2023.

SnyderBraverman is also the partner on this second building, and the UVM Health Network will again help finance the project without being a property manager. The Network will take a 10-year master lease on the 120-unit building. The apartments and child care facility are slated to open in early 2024.

The ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday afternoon included, from left, Ally Richards, Let's Grow Kids; Al Gobeille, Chief Operating Officer, UVMHN; Rebecca Kapsalis, UVMHN; Molly Lawrence, UVMHN; and Helen Riehle, president of the South Burlington City Council.

“It is frustrating when people we’ve recruited decline our offer of employment because they are not able to secure either housing or child care for their families, facing waitlists that can be pages long,” said Rebecca Kapsalis, Associate Vice President of Talent Acquisition for the UVM Health Network. “I am confident that helping employees and their families secure housing and child care will in turn help us relocate and hire more employees – and keep more of our colleagues working with us as well.”

The new housing and child care options will help to address some of the challenges both potential candidates and existing employees face.

“As a first-time parent to a child born during the pandemic, I am not alone in struggling to access reliable, high-quality and affordable child care,” said Molly Lawrence, Community Health Implementation Strategist for the UVM Health Network. “These past few years have been difficult to weather, and I am extremely grateful for the child care we found for our son. I am very excited about this responsive investment in providing an essential resource that I hope will ease the stress experienced by my fellow colleagues and parents.”

The announcement comes as the Network implements innovative solutions as part of its plan to address its financial challenges – with a primary driver being expenses stemming from the high cost of using temporary traveling staff to help maintain the level of services needed to meet the increasingly acute health care needs of patients in the region.

Gobeille said the $90 million loss the hospital suffered last year is largely attributable to labor costs and the need to hire expensive temporary workers.

Meanwhile, Bassett Health Care, a hospital system west of Albany, is spending furiously on local advertising in print, broadcast and digital media in an effort to recruit healthcare workers from this region. But Gobeille said that despite that effort, he has not seen an impact on employment in the UVMHN system. Gobeille said Bassett's effort tells you that recruiting and retention of healthcare workers is an issue everywhere. Bassett is based in Cooperstown, NY.

By investing in housing and child care, and enabling more staff to stay in the area or relocate to the area, Eappen said the Network can support its talented permanent employees and reduce spending on travelers.

UVM Health Network leaders are exploring similar ideas to support recruitment and retention of employees in areas closer to affiliate hospitals outside of the Chittenden County area, including in New York State, in the future.

The first of two housing units for UVMHN workers should be ready by April 1, 2023.

About The University of Vermont Health Network

The University of Vermont Health Network is an integrated system serving the residents of Vermont and northern New York with a shared mission: working together, we improve people’s lives. The partners are:

12.15.2022. Burlington, Vt. – The University of Vermont Health Network