In the South Bay, affordable housing is so scarce that one hospital is bussing some employees in from the Central Valley, often putting them up at hotels during the week.
On the northern coast in rural Arcata, once-affordable housing is nearly impossible to find. To ease the burden on its workers, Mad River Community Hospital owns three homes and leases a handful of apartments for its staff.
Further to the east, but still in rural Northern California, Mayers Memorial Healthcare District in Fall River Mills has purchased a former fishing lodge to help accommodate some of its employees in need of housing.
While these are creative solutions designed to ease housing problems in a few areas, they are merely a Band-Aid on a longstanding issue that is impacting not just our region, but nearly every part of the state.
California has a serious housing shortage — not just for low-income individuals but for front-line employees such health care workers. It’s no secret that housing costs have been rising rapidly for decades, making it difficult for many to live near where they work.
By one estimate California has a shortfall of nearly 1 million housing units, according to one report. No surprise, the same report found that the state’s shortage is highest in Southern California, the country’s fifth highest; the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley region has a shortage of 114,000 homes, the country’s seventh highest. San Jose and Sacramento metro areas ranked in the top 25 when it comes to a housing shortfall.
We applaud these three hospitals for their ingenuity and thinking outside the box, but they can’t do it alone. The state is already facing a severe workforce shortage, which is only exacerbated by a lack of housing. If employees can’t afford to live in the town where they work, they will simply look elsewhere for a job. This has a direct impact on patient care — making it even more difficult for a local hospital to recruit and retain employees.
While CHA advocacy resulted in state budget investments in the health care workforce, this is not enough. More must be done — at both the state and the local level — to ensure that the health care workforce has a place to live and can continue caring for all in their communities.