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A $1 Billion Maricopa County Hospital Makeover Is Set In Motion

February 24, 2017
Arizona Republic

The board that oversees Maricopa Medical Center has awarded a contract to a construction firm to help manage the nearly $1 billion project of remaking the region's safety-net health system.

Vanir Construction Management, one of eight firms to submit a bid, secured a $48.3 million contract over 6½ years to manage the complex project. Plans include replacing the aging Maricopa Medical Center at 26th and Roosevelt streets and rebuilding several outpatient health clinics.

"It's a big day for our community," said Steve Purves, CEO of Maricopa Integrated Health System. "We stabilized our finances and we are finally getting started on what the voters approved in 2014."

In 2014, voters approved Proposition 480, a $935 million bond authorization to replace Maricopa Medical Center, build a new behavioral-health hospital and upgrade outpatient health facilities and clinics. The following year, MIHS closed on the sale of $106 million in bonds to fund improvements such as new medical equipment and information technology needed for the health system.

But the health district's governing body, the Maricopa County Special Health Care District Board, wanted the taxpayer-funded health district to shore up its finances before pursuing the big-ticket projects. Last September, the board approved an $829 million plan to spend the taxpayer-approved bond funds to replace the hospital, a behavioral health unit and clinics throughout the Valley.

Purves emphasized that the plan could change based on larger forces that could affect the public health district's finances. A repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which has extended health insurance to more than a half-million Arizona residents, could lead to more uninsured patients seeking care through the safety-net health system.

"The good news is, this (plan) is pretty flexible," Purves said. "There is not a guaranteed amount that we are doing."

Although replacing Maricopa Medical Center is the centerpiece of the health-system overhaul, Purves said it won't be the first project to break ground. The health system likely will begin construction on an ambulatory or outpatient clinic before the end of the year, he said.

A modernized Maricopa Medical Center may not open until 2021, he said.

Maricopa Medical Center is licensed for more than 300 beds. The master plan calls for a new hospital with a range of 200 to 240 beds for patients either admitted to the hospital or placed on "observation" status before being admitted or discharged.

The smaller hospital follows a trend in health care, with hospitals routing more people to outpatient clinics or observation status. Hospitals also are attempting to avoid readmitting patients within 30 days of discharge to avoid Medicare's financial penalties.

These factors led to a 6 percent drop in inpatient days at Maricopa County hospitals since 2012 despite the county's population growth, according to an MIHS consultant's report.

Further changes could be in the works for the health system's mix of behavioral-health beds. MIHS has 219 beds for behavioral-health patients at its main campus and at Desert Vista in Mesa.

The master plan adopted by the board in September describes the 126-bed Desert Vista facility as "antiquated and operationally inefficient" and recommends consolidating the health system's two behavioral-health units.

MIHS is committed to keeping its current number of beds for behavioral-health patients, but Desert Vista's future remains uncertain.

"We haven't come to any major conclusions on what to do with the Desert Vista facility," Purves said.

The master plan also calls for replacing all but two of the health system's 13 family health clinics.

"Our facilities are pretty well outdated and not configured in the right way," said Purves, who added that the health system will analyze each clinic and the market it serves before deciding whether to replace or relocate.


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