Healthcare facilities in the West Valley are booming, but with more buildings comes fewer medical professionals to fill the spots that are needed.

The West Valley is the fastest growing part of Arizona right now. With its population continuously growing, even with Covid, there is more of a need than ever for healthcare facilities. The Western Maricopa Coalition (WESTMARC) tracks the population of the Western Valley, where right now it stands at 1.7 million people, but in 2030 they are projecting 2.1
million residents.

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Since the West Valley population is increasing quickly, more and more healthcare buildings are being built to keep up with all of the new residents. Kimberly Jordan, WESTMARC’s director of strategic partnerships and business development, said that the healthcare industry is, “the only industry-specific issue committee that we run currently and that is because it is our leading industry.”

Jordan also talked about why medical facilities have decided to come to Western Valley. She said that the Western Valley, specifically Maricopa County, was one the largest and fastest growing counties in all of the United States.

Jordan then talked about when the growth of the healthcare industry really started, which was almost eight years ago. Even though the “boom” started almost eight years ago, 2016 is when Maricopa County really saw the need for a major increase in medical positions and buildings.

According to Trevor Stokes, CEO at the Partnership for Workforce Innovation, the healthcare industry provided 368, 325 jobs, or 14.5% of industry jobs in 2016. WESTMARC said that today 36% of medical professionals are residing in the West Valley.

Economic development experts see the healthcare business trajectory to continue to grow. Stokes said that he sees, “a growth trajectory in this industry is consistent and it outperforms the economy overall.”

With the growth of healthcare facilities and the population, medical workers are needed more than ever. There has been a slight decrease since 2012 of people wanting to join the medical field, according to Stokes. He said that 14,000 more health technologists and technicians would be needed to keep healthcare facilities on a continuous smooth path.

Since the COVID-19 vaccine came out, it has been an optional decision for people, but now with the possibility of mandating the vaccine for workers, some people are getting upset. Jordan mentioned that some medical professionals have been more hesitant to get the vaccine. The healthcare workforce is worried that if the vaccines become mandated that some workers will leave.

Stokes is concerned about this and said, “the talent development ecosystem is the lifeblood of our business community because business at its essence is people.”

The state of the overall economy works hand in hand with the state of the medical industry, so keeping one another on track is key.

Medical workers are key to keeping the healthcare industry booming, but it looks like more people are deciding to take a different path to getting there. Shorter term learning and certificates seem to be more in peoples’ sights rather than getting a degree. Stokes talked about how every type of degree from associates and on have seen a decline in people getting them since 2012. Though, in high schools, health science is still the largest Career and technical education (CTE) program that students enroll in.

COVID-19 affected the labor force of the whole country, but in the West  Valley, it did not hurt medical facilities too badly. Jordan talked about how the development of healthcare industries has stayed pretty consistent even throughout Covid. Even expansions and new buildings have started during the pandemic. Phoenix Children’s Hospital is one example, expanding in the West
Valley during this time.

She said, “it has not slowed our population growth and the development of healthcare.”

The healthcare industry is on a steady continuous incline, but healthcare workers seem to be decreasing more and more. Medical professionals were recently taxed after the pandemic, causing a lot of them to quit. The taxes and the possible vaccine mandate is scaring medical workers that are needed to keep the medical industry the number one in the labor force.