As Houston’s economy continues to recover from the oil and gas downturn, the health care job market in Greater Houston—including Spring and Klein—has proven to be resilient as the area population and demand for services continue to rise.
In December 2015, the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual employment forecast predicted around 9,000 health care jobs would be added in 2016, said Patrick Jankowski, senior vice president of research at GHP.
Job market shift
The University of Houston’s Bauer College of Business reports the region lost nearly 25,000 oil production and services jobs and over 29,000 manufacturing jobs from December 2014 to July 2016. Hospital officials say these losses could explain why many workers are now moving to work in the health care industry.
“Memorial Hermann is seeing more and more people seeking employment in health care,” said Tanya D. Cook, vice president of talent acquisition and premier staffing for Memorial Hermann Health System. “That’s due largely to the downturn in oil and energy business. While our primary need is for health care clinicians, we are always looking for
talented people for non-clinical jobs such as accounting and finance, and information and technology.”
About 1 in 9 jobholders in the Greater Houston area now works in the health care industry, and the sector has added nearly 50,000 jobs in the past five years, according to GHP.
“There is a huge concentration of need,” said Ashley Hamlin, communications and outreach manager for Lone Star Family Health Center, a Conroe-based facility which opened a Spring satellite office on Rayford Road in 2014. “The state of Texas overall has a very low ratio of doctors to population as far as primary care doctors.”
Jankowski said two factors most contribute to the growth in health care jobs: the natural population increase from babies born in the area and an aging population.
“There’s another factor in health care: people talk about baby boomers,” he said. “One of the times you need health care is when you get older. You tend to see a doctor more often as you get older than you do in your youth, and so as Houston’s population ages, that creates demand for [health care] services.”
Houston, local markets
Hospital officials and market experts agree the population increase is driving much of the market growth, steering it away from downtown and toward the suburbs.
While the Texas Medical Center is still one of the largest attractions for health care workers, large hospital systems are also looking outside Loop 610 for new facility locations, Jankowski said.
Several new health care facilities opened in the Spring and Klein area in 2016, and more are planned next year.
A Memorial Hermann Convenient Care Center is planned at the Grand Parkway and Boudreaux Road in 2017.
“We chose the location in the Spring area due to the tremendous commercial and residential growth,” said Teal Holden, vice president of operations for Memorial Hermann Convenient
The Convenient Care Center will employ 80 to 100 people initially.
Memorial Hermann also collaborated on the opening of a sports medicine and rehabilitation clinic on Stuebner Airline Road, which opened in June, and opened an adjacent urgent care facility on Oct. 26 .
CHI St. Luke’s Health-Springwoods Village Hospital opened in January in the Springwoods Village master-planned community. The six-story, 23-acre complex includes an emergency department and diagnostic services on the first two floors, Director of Operations Vernon Jones said.
The hospital is leasing 100,000 square feet of medical office space on the upper four stories of the building. Baylor St. Luke’s Medical center is slated to occupy the third floor in early 2017, Jones said.
Other new facilities in the area include several new hospitals off FM 1960.
Providence Hospital of North Houston and New Life Hospital each opened on Red Oak Drive this summer, featuring emergency rooms and inpatient and outpatient facilities.
Emergency room, urgent care and primary medical care facilities have formed the bulk of new openings in suburban Houston, said Tim Schauer, vice president at Houston-based Cornerstone Government Affairs, where he is a consultant and advocate on public policy relating to health care.
“It’s very much primary care and basic services,” he said. “They aren’t building MD Anderson or trauma centers; they’re building basic medical and surgical [services].”Schauer said job growth in the health care industry in Spring and Klein will likely continue in the next few years.
“[Spring] has had a very sharp short-term growth but over the next two to three decades, I don’t see anything abating that growth—property is cheap,” he said.
Keeping in line with demand, local higher education providers are also expanding their health care education offerings to prepare more students to enter the workforce.
“Nursing is the number one employment structure to bring people out of poverty,” Schauer said. “There is a lot of higher education that has to come along with providing health care.”
Bill Drees, dean of health and human services at LSC-North Harris, said its pharmacy technician program moved from the main campus to the Health Professions Building on Red Oak Drive this year. The building is now fully occupied and can accommodate
program expansion in the near future, he said.
“The 2014 bond will provide necessary equipment to the nursing and allied health programs to facilitate program expansion,” Drees said.
Additionally, a four-year degree program from LSCS could be on the horizon for area students interested in nursing, said Amos McDonald, LSCS vice chancellor of external affairs.
“Lone Star College is working with the Texas Legislature to allow it to offer
baccalaureate degrees in nursing,” McDonald said. “There is a huge demand for health care workers, and allowing Lone Star College to offer four-year degrees in this field will help ensure our community has the ‘people power’ to keep up with the need.”
Regardless of when the economy completely recovers, Jankowski said growth in the health care market will likely continue, as the population increase shows no signs of abating.
“As long as mankind is around, health care will be a strong field,” Jankowski said.