Just over 50 St. John’s Medical Center families are on a waiting list for child care. The employee who has been on the list the longest has been waiting for two years.
Recognizing the long wait, the hospital’s human resources department is moving forward with a plan to expand services. The hospital’s board of trustees unanimously approved the expansion during its regular monthly meeting Thursday after the idea was first brought to a committee meeting two months ago.
“We continually hear this is a critical need for somebody to be able to continue to work once they have children,” Human Resources Director Thom Kinney said at the meeting. “We don’t want having children to be a barrier to somebody continuing their career at St. John’s.”
The hospital provides child care that starts when mothers return from maternity leave with infants just a few months old through a school-age program in which students are watched before and after school.
The hospital will open a second child care area on campus, in a location to be determined in June. The move would take between 42 and 46 people off the waiting list when the location opens in 2020.
The catch? Trustees said they can’t afford to subsidize childcare more than they do now, roughly $350,000 a year. More people plus the same amount of money means rates would likely increase. Kinney wasn’t sure by how much. The hospital will likely switch to a weekly rate model, instead of the current daily rate.
“Other child care centers need to make a profit,” he told the News&Guide. “We don’t. So we’re really just trying to keep that operating expense where it is now. We’ve worked out how to operate at a fixed loss, essentially, and we’re just going to extend that model into the new center.”
He anticipates hiring new staff, whose salaries will be paid in part by the additional families able to use the program.
Right now, subsidized rates are about $35 to $40 per day per child. That’s cheaper than many options in Teton County, where some people pay $100 a day.
The most recent employee survey contained lots of comments and concerns about the availability of affordable housing and child care. Many clinical employees work unusual and variable shifts, for example, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., that aren’t covered by the traditional hours of child care facilities.
“They don’t have other options for child care in the community,” Kinney told the room.
It’s part of the bigger picture, Kinney said. Without child care staff can’t help keep the community healthy.
“We really do view it as a critical role in providing care to our patients and providing that continuity,” he said.
The benefit for full-time employees can’t really be used as a recruiting tool. Employees might have to wait until they have a toddler to access it.