IVINS — The Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins opened its doors to its first veterans five years ago on July 18, 2013, after a grand opening two months earlier.
The public is invited to an open house Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to celebrate the anniversary. Free hot dogs and drinks will be offered along with tours of the facility and also an opportunity to inquire about employment opportunities at the home.
Jerry Olson, administrator of the home, pointed out a popular misconception the public has about the place: “This is not a Veterans Administration facility,” he said. “This is a state veterans home and is owned by the state, which hires Avalon Health Care to operate the home.”
“We hear it all the time, people think this is a VA hospital. It’s not,” said Tony Moore, who is state officer for the State of Utah. “The VA does provide funding, which greatly helps keep the facility operating.”
It is one of four veterans homes in Utah, the others being located in Ogden, Salt Lake City and Payson.
The $19 million facility has 108 available beds for military veterans and their spouses.
“We have some spouses and spouses of veterans. We really prefer veterans and very rarely will we have spouses of a veteran,” Olson said. “But we are always serving our veterans first. We try to help veterans even if we can’t accommodate them right now.
“We are virtually full, but that’s not entirely accurate. We have three units, memory care for folks with Alzheimer’s, long-term care for some veterans who live here and probably expect to live here for quite some time and then we provide short-term rehabilitation and those are folks usually coming from the hospital, mostly Dixie Regional but some from Cedar City and Las Vegas. They come here and they receive therapy and heal perhaps from surgery or diseases, what not, then discharge and go home. Our long-term beds are usually full. There’s a misconception that we’re full all the time. We’d like to change that. We do have bed availability, especially for the short-term care.”
The 102,000-square-foot facility features nine pods, or communities, each with 12 individual rooms and bathrooms for the veterans.
There are three medically trained personnel assigned to each pod.
Next door is the new Rocky Vista University, one of only two medical schools in the state.
David Crimin coordinates the program with the university and home.
“We’re training the next generation of doctors,” he said.
“The university is mutually beneficial because our residents get more prompt attention if needed,” Olson said.
Katherine Scarfo, head of nursing, said her department offers several different programs for training and teaching nursing personnel.
“One of the biggest challenges is staffing nurses,” she said. “But we have a very good core staff and we’re trying to train our own and keep them here (in the St. George area).”
Olson added, “It’s not just us, the whole country is facing a shortage of nurses.”
Scarfo pointed out the home has a 5-star rating and faces annual scrutiny from Medicare and the Veterans Administration, but continues to get top ratings.
The facility has 160-170 full-time staff and another 50 or so part-time and volunteers.
“We’re here to serve the community. This is a public building. It was paid for with tax dollars. We try to be a community partner and work with the local churches and organizations,” Olson said.
“But our main goal is to help the veterans,” he added.
- What: 5th anniversary open house of Southern Utah Veterans Home admissions.
- When: Thursday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Where: Southern Utah Veterans Home, 160 N. 200 East, Ivins.
- Cost: Free.