Tom Bell
Guest columnist
Putting America back to work is essential to the nation’s economic recovery, and health care employment is supporting a significant portion of our economy.
The health care sector has added jobs during the recession and is creating opportunities for high quality, high satisfaction employment in the years ahead. That’s great news for Kansas.
Leaders in Washington, D.C., are working on jobs legislation. And, broadening the employment base is essential. However, focusing on existing high value employment opportunities — sectors that have grown and where additional investment might prove to be beneficial — just makes sense.
Health care is one of those growth areas, remaining a remarkably stable segment of the U.S. economy. For example, over the last 12 months, the nation’s health care sector added over 300,000 jobs, while jobs were being lost in many other sectors.
According to a report from the Office of Local Government, K-State Research and Extension, Kansas hospitals employ 62,446 people or 3.4 percent of all job holders in the state, with a total payroll over $3.2 billion. The entire health sector in Kansas employs 184,483 people or 10 percent of all job holders in the state. This puts Kansas ahead of the national average of 9.1 percent of all job holders in the United States working in health care services.
As hospitals expand services and facilities, they not only provide additional opportunities for employment, but they also generate economic activity and income in other sectors of the economy. The report from K-State Research and Extension found that Kansas hospitals generate more than $3.2 billion in direct total income to the Kansas economy each year. For every one dollar of income generated by hospitals, another 47 cents was generated in other business and industry. Thus, hospitals had an stimated total impact on income throughout all business and industry of nearly $4.8 billion.
Kansas hospitals believe that supporting increased investment in areas of our economy that are poised for growth is a smart move in helping stabilize employment in our communities. Increasing demand for health care services will require new health care infrastructure and additional education and training for more health care workers. Specific professions currently in demand and poised for future growth include health information technology, therapists, laboratory and radiologic technologists, registered nurses and pharmacists.
There’s never been a better time for educators, health care providers, technology developers and community leaders in the Kansas to collaborate to strengthen employment opportunities in the state’s health care system. We don’t have to wait. Many of these jobs are available for qualified applicants, and more will be available as demand for health care services increase.
We’re proud of the strength of the health care sector in Kansas. When lawmakers look for opportunities to build employment, they should keep an eye on health care and hospitals.
We encourage you to visit www.kha-net.org to read the November 2010 report entitled The Importance of the Health Care Sector to the Kansas Economy, produced by researchers at the Office of Local Government, K-State Research and Extension.
Tom Bell is the president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association.KHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities.