Contact Us

Bay Area Cost Of Living Putting Pressure On Healthcare Facilities

UCSF Chief Operating Officer James Bennan and DGA Planning | Architecture | Interiors senior associate and senior medical planner Melinda Lin

The cost of living in the Bay Area has made it difficult to recruit and retain healthcare professionals across multiple health systems and facilities. Those health systems that are able to recruit high-quality employees are the ones able to offer substantial benefits.

For healthcare nonprofits like HealthRIGHT 360, staff recruitment and retention is particularly difficult, especially since employees often go to Kaiser Permanente, UCSF, the San Francisco Department of Health or the VA, HealthRIGHT 360 President and CEO Vitka Eisen said during Bisnow’s recent The State of San Francisco Healthcare event.

Those that stay typically love the mission behind the work they are doing, Eisen said.

View Dynamic Glass Vice President of Business Development Zachary Gentry and CSDA Design Group principal Randy Waldeck

“We also have more employees move out of state,” Eisen said. “They just can’t afford and are not willing to have the high cost of housing.”

She said employees move to cities like Denver or Boise, Idaho, where they can better afford the cost of housing.

Eisen said there is no easy answer. There is a federal program that can provide student loan forgiveness for physicians who work with nonprofits and practice in an area with a low density of providers. In San Francisco very few physicians can qualify for the program since the density of providers is too high, Eisen said.

UCSF is working on building housing for medical residents near its Parnassus campus, UCSF Chief Operating Officer James Bennan said. The health system also offers a pension plan, which is a recruiting advantage since very few systems offer pensions.

Halio Vice President of Sales Jeffery Glick

Recruiting technologists and janitors has been the most challenging, but Bennan said those that work at UCSF often come from the Central Valley or Sacramento and will pass by 20 other hospitals on their way to UCSF just to make sure they get a good health benefits plan for their families. 

The challenge also is balancing the needs of staff and pay raises and benefits with patients’ need for lower-cost care, Bennan said. Additional staffing costs often translate to higher costs of care, he said.

In addition to high wages, shuttles, tech and other retention tools, Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President Ron Groepper said retention comes down to good managers and management that cares for employees and patients.

“Employees don’t leave an organization,” Groepper said. “They leave a manager.”