SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Avera announced its making a $50 million investment in its workforce and raising the Sioux Falls-based health system’s minimum working wage to $17 an hour.

In a news release Wednesday, Avera says the investment in the workforce will “benefit each and every employee in various ways.”

Avera Health President & CEO Bob Sutton said health care is Avera’s No. 1 business and No. 1 priority. He told KELOLAND News Avera puts “our investment back into our people and in our facilities to care for our people.”

“$50 million was a number that was significant enough to make a difference,” Sutton said Wednesday. “And we know that’s an investment into our people that’ll be meaningful and drive results and be a boost to the economy in all 100-plus communities that we’re in across our footprint.” 

The investments include:

  • $17 per hour minimum wage
  • Appreciation gifts
  • Pay increases of at least $2 per hour for current employees; some positions may receive a higher increase based on market
  • On-call pay increase
  • No annual premium increases for health and dental insurance
  • Cost reductions in select tiers for health insurance
  • $1,000 cash payments to employees who refer someone from outside Avera
  • 40 hours of paid-time off front-loaded for new hires, rather than having to accrue hours over time
  • A new employee discount program

“The time is right,” Sutton said. “We’re looking at recognition for a job well done for people who have really, really worked hard over the last year and half through this pandemic and have made huge personal sacrifices.” 

The Avera Health system has 20,000 employees and physicians, serving more than 300 locations and 100 communities in a five-state region.

Sutton said the money is a retention effort for “caregivers and those behind the scenes to stay with us at Avera.” He said the extra money should help with recruitment and pointed out Avera has “hundreds of open positions” in various positions across the region. 

“We think it’s very important to lead courageously and be bold when it comes to our investment in our people. Today was the right day to do this,” Sutton said.  “The true heroes of this pandemic have been the folks that have been caregivers and supporting those caregivers.”