Health Care, Education Sectors Creating Thousands of New Jobs

John Jordan | August 22, 2016

The health care and education sectors have been key drivers of new jobs in the Hudson Valley region the past few years and all indications are that they will continue to fuel economic growth in the years to come.

The health care industry, particularly, has been especially active with major investments and partnerships undertaken recently by New York City based health care institutions, such as Montefiore, New York Presbyterian, Sloan Kettering, and the Hospital for Special Surgery. In addition, there has been more than $1 billion in health care campus expansion projects unveiled so far this year in the Hudson Valley that will result in numerous new construction jobs and a significant amount of permanent jobs upon project completion.

The Hudson Valley is home to more than 30 public and private colleges and universities with an estimated 35,000 employees, and 37 hospitals employing nearly 100,000 individuals in health care-related occupations, according to figures compiled by the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp.

The proof of the health care and education sector’s positive impact on the region is clearly evident by the job numbers. In the 12-month period between June 2015-June 2016, the education and health services sector added 7,700 jobs, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

According to a report released in September 2015 by the New York State Department of Labor chronicling the major industries in the Hudson Valley, regional market analyst Johny Nelson stated that the health care sector added 4,300 jobs from 2009-2014. The education sector, which has the largest employment base in the Hudson Valley, has rebounded the past few years after shedding 4,700 positions during the 2009-2014 period.

The two largest health care related investments are at the Westchester Medical Center campus in Valhalla and Health Quest’s Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie.

A Rendering of the $466-million Vassar Brothers Medical Center Patient Pavilion in Poughkeepsie.
A Rendering of the $466-million Vassar Brothers Medical Center Patient Pavilion in Poughkeepsie.

A groundbreaking is scheduled this September for the $466-million, 696,000-square-foot complex in the City of Poughkeepsie. The new seven-level inpatient pavilion will feature 264 private medical/surgical patient rooms and 30 critical care rooms. It also will include an emergency department/trauma center with 66 treatment rooms, parking for ambulances and the public, new operating rooms, a cafeteria with an outdoor veranda and a flexible conference center with three large rooms for use by the public and service groups. HealthQuest hopes to complete the project and have the first patient served by the new pavilion by January 2019. The project is reportedly the largest construction project in the history of the City of Poughkeepsie.

Earlier this year, the Westchester Medical Center announced plans for a $230-million expansion of its facilities at the Grasslands campus in Valhalla. The new eight-story steel and glass Ambulatory Care Pavilion will include 185,000 square feet of ambulatory care service space, including an Advanced Imaging Center, an Ambulatory Surgery Center and Heart and Vascular Institute, and a 20,000-square-foot private-room expansion for Westchester Medical Center, plus another 75,000 square feet for physician offices.

The project, which secured incentives from the Westchester Local Development Corp., is expected to create 225 prevailing wage construction jobs and generate 180 new full-time jobs when complete. The WMCHealth Ambulatory Care Pavilion is believed to be one of Westchester’s largest non-residential building projects in recent memory, and the largest healthcare project since Westchester Medical Center’s 400,000-square-foot main tower was built in 1977 and its 250,000-square-foot Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital was built in 2004.

Another new construction project in the region is Orange Regional Medical Center’s new $99-million new 153,000 square foot, five-story medical office building and a 26,000 square foot, single-story cancer center. Construction on the expansion project in the Town of Wallkill is nearing completion at press time.

Other significant recent health care-related transactions of note include the Hospital for Special Surgery’s planned expansion into approximately 55,000 square feet of space at 1133 Westchester Ave. in White Plains. According to published reports, construction on the center is scheduled to begin in September 2016 with an anticipated opening sometime in the fourth quarter of 2017.

In addition, providers such as WestMed Medical Group and Crystal Run Healthcare have expanded operations. Crystal Run Healthcare recently completed the construction of a 70,000-square-foot location in West Nyack earlier this month and is building a facility of a similar size in Monroe.

The Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp. held a seminar earlier this year that focused on the explosive growth taking place in the health care and higher education sectors. The program entitled “Hudson Valley EDs & MEDs Power Panel” was held at Marist College in Poughkeepsie this past spring.

More than 250 registered for the event, where business executives and community leaders gathered at the Nelly Goletti Theatre at Marist College to hear examples of organizational success and forecasts about future health care and education trends.

“If you look at labor data from the past several years, it is quite clear that health care and higher education are major economic engines and significant job generators,” said Laurence P. Gottlieb, HVEDC president and CEO. “Given their important role in a thriving Hudson Valley economy, with over a billion dollars in expansion plans announced just within the past year, we felt it was important to hear directly from their top executives how we as a community can support their ambitious plans for growth.”

Chad Rynbrandt, head of strategy and business development for global health care technology leader, Philips NA, was the keynote speaker. Westchester Medical Center Health Network earlier this year signed a $500-million, 15-year agreement with Philips, as the company will supply state-of-the-art technology and strategic consultation in service to Westchester Medical Center Health Network customers throughout the region.

“Digital innovation allows us to make the connections we need to better inform an engaged public,” said Rynbrandt. “That also allows us to get diagnoses right the first-time. There will also be minimally invasive therapies.”

Rynbrandt spoke about how Google sensors embedded into contact lenses can monitor blood glucose levels. Google, he said, has also created digital technology that tells eyeglass wearers who they are looking at through facial recognition technology, which can be of great benefit to Alzheimer’s patients. He also spoke about how sensor transmitters from Redwood City, CA-based Proteus are now embedded into medication and activated by stomach acid, generating signals picked up by a disposable bandage-like patch on patient torsos to keep tabs on chronic illness statuses and overall medical needs.

A Rendering of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.
A Rendering of the Ambulatory Care Pavilion at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.

Rynbrandt also spoke about Westchester Medical Center Health Network’s innovative use of “eHealth telehealth” technology, an initiative to improve patient outcomes throughout the Hudson Valley. With multimedia stations equipped with the latest telehealth patient monitoring technologies and software, this hub is staffed around the clock by highly trained physicians, nurses and other health care professionals. They serve, remotely, as a complement to the dedicated care teams for patients in network hospitals, nursing homes, physician offices and, eventually, homes across the region.

“This is a wonderful example of how digital innovation, practically applied, makes a difference in people’s lives,” he added.

Rynbrandt said medical providers and suppliers need to manage talent as a strategic asset; apply outside thinking to challenge the status quo; use different hiring sources and have new roles in health systems, including: pop health, analytics, digital innovation, clinical transformation, customer experience and care coordinators.

The program also featured a panel of regional, senior-level and higher education and health care executives that included: Scott Batulis, president and CEO of the Greater Hudson Valley Health System; Joseph DiCarlo, senior vice president and director of human resources of WESTMED Practice Partners; James DuMond, Ph.D., dean of the School of Science at Marist College; Paul Hochenberg, executive director of MidHudson Regional Hospital, member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network; and Luke McGuinness, Health Quest CEO.

Hochberg, McGuiness and Batulis discussed respectively Westchester Medical Center’s, Health Quest’s and Orange Regional’s expansion projects and how those projects were necessary to deal with the expanded growth in-patient services at their institutions.

Orange Regional Medical Center, the result of the merger of the former Horton Hospital in Middletown and the Arden Hill Hospital in Goshen, opened its doors for the first time in June 2012. The new hospital, which features 354 private rooms, was built at a cost of approximately $317 million and was the first new hospital construction in 20 years in New York State. The Greater Hudson Valley Health System is the parent of Orange Regional Medical Center and Catskill Regional Medical Center in Harris, NY.

Batulis characterized his organization as “transformational,” noting, “We have the first replacement hospital in 20 years in New York State. We’re working smarter and better to drive down costs.”

Orange Regional Medical Center’s relationships with area higher education institutions, including the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middletown, result in more than 800 students rotating through the hospital annually, he added.

Hochenberg pointed out how technology advancements raise the standard in patient care, noting the majority of MidHudson Regional’s capital costs are tied to technology acquisitions.

McGuinness equally addressed the impact of technology and how it positively affects an organization’s physical plant as well as human resource development. “What I tell people is that I’m in the people business, but we also happen to deliver health care,” he said.

DiCarlo spoke about the increased use of analytics in health care, noting that health care consumers have many choices and a positive patient experience is critical, requiring organizations like WESTMED to “reframe what the clinical professional looks like today.”

“People don’t come to us because they feel great,” DiCarlo said. “We focus on empathic, patient-centric care. We want an unbelievably positive experience. And we tell people, take computer science if you want to be employed.”

DuMond stressed that the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) field is being recognized by students throughout the region as stepping-stones for a “nice paycheck.”

Additionally, he said, relationships with area community colleges and health care providers remain critically important, and are balanced with making sure technology used by those health care providers is the same used by higher education institutions when training its students.

Collectively, the panelists predicted that information technology needs will only continue to grow and become more sophisticated, requiring health care professionals to be more technologically savvy.

They also offered a somewhat somber note that consolidation of hospitals has come late to New York State, predicting further decommissioning of acute care beds are likely in the near future.


John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth