Bemidji Veterans Home construction now 70% complete
The Bemidji Veterans Home is on track to be completed this summer and has begun searching for employees.
BEMIDJI — As construction on the Bemidji Veterans Home continues toward a mid-summer completion, Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs officials met with community advocates on Tuesday, Jan. 31, to provide an update and introduce the home’s leader.
The administrator of the Bemidji Veterans Home, Kevin Gish, joined MDVA in December and has more than 30 years of administrative and operational experience in health care, including UnitedHealthcare Corporation, North Memorial Medical Center, North Country Regional Hospital, Essentia Health and Health Dimensions Group.
“It’s a privilege to be here,” Gish said. “I wanted to be part of this veterans home in part to honor the veterans in my family, including my uncle who died as a prisoner of war in Korea.”
Most recently, Gish provided executive leadership of critical access to hospital campuses including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and clinics. He has been a Minnesota-licensed nursing home administrator since 2011.
Gish, who received a bachelor’s degree from Bemidji State University and a master’s degree in health care administration from the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, has lived in Bemidji since 1995 and is originally from Mahnomen.
“My vision is to ensure that the Bemidji Veterans Home is not just a nursing home but truly a home for the veterans who complete their final tour of duty there,” Gish said, adding that the home will be “comfortable, inviting and inclusive.”
Construction on the home is 70% complete and continues on schedule. It will be located at 920 Anne Street NW, in Bemidji and will include 72 beds. The first residents are expected to be admitted in August.
Since applications opened in September, 141 veterans and 21 veteran spouses have applied. To be accepted for admission, residents must be:
• Discharged under honorable conditions from any branch of the U.S. armed forces and a current resident of Minnesota who served 181 consecutive days on active duty, unless discharged earlier because of disability incurred in the line of duty.
• The spouse of an eligible veteran who is at least 55 years old and meets residency requirements.
• Able to demonstrate a medical or clinical need for skilled nursing care.
County Veterans Service Officers are available to assist future residents with the admission and application process. Admissions inquiries can be emailed to NewHomesAdmissions@state.mn.us.
Gish will lead a team of more than 160 full and part-time employees. Staff will be hired over the next six months. He acknowledged the challenge of hiring during the current workforce shortage and believes that the home offers competitive wages and generous state of Minnesota employee benefits.
Current recruitment efforts are focused on leadership roles for human resources, business office, building maintenance, clinical education and health information. Most frontline staff will be hired in early summer. Job openings will be posted at mn.gov/careers. Employment inquiries can be emailed to NewHomesJobs@state.mn.us.
“Our goal is to encourage more community members to explore a rewarding career in long-term care and to improve the workforce shortages for all facilities,” said Simone Hogan, senior director of veteran’s health care for MDVA. “Our hope is that new employees to the veterans home will make this their career and be here 25 years from now.”
Despite the recruitment challenges, MDVA officials are confident that staff will find the veterans home a great place to work. They also mentioned that the staffing ratio between employees and residents will be better than in many other long-term care facilities, allowing staff and residents to form relationships and provide more continuity of care.
The Bemidji Veterans Home will include 72 residential units with private baths that will be split into two “neighborhoods” and four “households” of 18 residents each, providing a more homelike atmosphere.
Until the facility is completed, Gish and other staff will work from a community office space located at the Westridge Commerce Center at 23000 24th Street NW, Suite 108, in Bemidji.
For more information, visit the MDVA website at MinnesotaVeteran.org/FutureHomes.