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Northwest Houston's growth spurs boom in health care jobs

Photo: Jerry Baker, Freelance

CHI St. Luke's Health has a new Springwoods Village medical campus. CHI St. Luke's Health has a new Springwoods Village medical campus.

Health care jobs are booming in northwest Houston.

Health care is following population growth across the area, with new hospitals, specialists, emergency care facilities and nursing homes being built and expanding around the region.

"Health care is the fastest growing sector in our area, and nurses are the fastest growing occupation," said Linda Head, associate vice chancellor at the Lone Star College System, who oversees the college's workforce education and corporate college partnerships.

Across the Houston metro area, there were 105,000 job openings across all industries from Oct. 24 to Jan. 21, Head said, citing job numbers from Burning Glass Technologies' Labor Insight Tool, a real-time labor market gauge.

"And of those, the top industries with job postings were health care, hospitality, insurance and higher education," she said.

Nursing topped the list, Head said.

The Lone Star College System is working to respond to that need by adding additional health care programs and certifications.

The college has added a program that complements radiology and the system is expanding its surgical technology and patient care technician certificate programs.

In addition, the system has expanded its paramedics program. And the college's dental hygienist and dental assistant programs continue to grow as well, Head said.

In December, there were 2,800 jobs added in the Houston region in health care and social assistance, a 0.9 percent increase from the previous month, according to a recent report by Workforce Solutions, which tracks jobs in the area. That is the strongest increase in that sector since 1998, according to the report.

There were 1,500 jobs added in ambulatory health care services in December, a 1 percent increase from November, according to Workforce Solutions. In the last year, jobs in ambulatory health care services rose 4.2 percent with 6,100 jobs added and jobs at hospitals rose 6.9 percent with 5,500 jobs.

Construction on new hospitals and health care facilities continues throughout northwest Houston, as companies work to keep pace with the area's rapid population growth.

CHI St. Luke's Health recently opened its $120 million medical campus in Springwoods Village to fill the growing need as 10,000 new employees start work at Exxon Mobil Corp's nearby Spring campus.

Tomball Regional Medical Center recently completed a $4.5 million emergency room expansion and modernization project, said Joy Hiltabidle, director of marketing at Tomball Regional Medical Center.

In addition, nursing homes are expanding in the region. A new senior living and care community, Avanti Senior Living, is coming soon to Tomball, located off Kuykendahl and West Rayford roads. The community will have 90 suites, including 50 for assisted-living and 40 suites for memory care, which includes seniors with Alzheimer's or memory impairment.

And veterans are flocking to the new Veterans Affairs Tomball Outpatient Clinic, quickly making it one of the busiest VA clinics in the region, said Maureen Dyman, communications director of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. The clinic serves 9,700 veterans, making it one of the largest VA outpatient clinics in Houston.

In addition, more medical specialist positions are opening in northwest Houston, giving patients health care closer to home, Head said. Previously, patients traveled to the Texas Medical Center for specialists.

And the college system is working to expand other programs to meet needs.

Lone Star College System Chancellor Stephen Head and the college's six campus presidents will be hosting an advisory meeting this spring with leaders from area hospitals and health care facilities to discuss the region's needs.

"When you look at health care occupations, we are seeing more specialty health care - occupational therapy, physical therapy, radiology," Head said. "All those areas are really growing in northwest Houston."