NAH wants to build the hospital this community needs

By: David R. Cheney
Chief Executive Officer, Northern Arizona Healthcare

Northern Arizona Healthcare (NAH) exists to bring health and healing to northern Arizona residents. As one of the newest employees here, I am so excited to be part of an amazing, caring team working toward this mission. I joined NAH in June and immediately took part in the vibrant community discussions about our health care future.

I’m listening to these conversations and I value the dialogue. I also want to bring insight to some of the misinformation being shared about the planned hospital campus north of Fort Tuthill.

We’re often asked why we must move instead of renovating Flagstaff Medical Center’s current facility on “hospital hill.”

NAH’s goal is to provide exceptional care to every person who needs it in our region. Every year, thousands of patients must fly or drive to another city (usually Phoenix or Las Vegas or Albuquerque) because we simply don’t have the capacity at FMC. Our studies proved it’s not possible to serve our growing regional population and meet modern medical standards for health care space and facilities by renovating the existing hospital, given the size and state of the building and its infrastructure.

Further, renovating our hospital to get as close as we could to the advanced care and larger size this community needs is not good for Flagstaff. I’ve been involved in construction projects with other hospitals. I’ve seen years of constant renovation and construction cause disruption to the healing, stable environment we need in order to fulfill our highest calling of saving lives. This would be particularly true of any effort to renovate FMC’s aging and inefficient building, which has already been renovated and expanded as much as possible in the past several decades. More renovations would take over a decade of constant construction. We would constantly be closing patient care sections of the hospital, sometimes for years at a time, leaving our community without critical services and patient beds. Most importantly, after renovations, FMC will still be too small to meet the needs of our growing population in the future.

So instead, we plan to plan to build a new hospital, funded entirely by NAH. It will reduce wait times in the Emergency Department, because we will be able to triage, treat, admit and release patients efficiently. It will also meet current medical standards of larger, private rooms to create a healing environment. If you’ve ever had a hospital stay (or visited a loved one) in a shared room like we have now at FMC, with only a thin curtain dividing beds, you know how difficult it is to not have privacy when getting a procedure done in your room, or when having deeply personal conversations about your care. Recovering from surgery should not include the stress of your neighbor’s recovery, too.

We also want to repurpose the current FMC campus in a way that serves this community. When I talk with Flagstaff residents, I hear a consistent demand for more affordable housing, senior living facilities and workforce development opportunities. All of those options would be a perfect fit for hospital hill after we move out.
NAH has committed to the Flagstaff City Council that the redevelopment of FMC’s current campus will be shaped by a community engagement process. We will hold public meetings this year to start the conversation about how to repurpose FMC, including our own goals of using the site to address affordable housing, senior living and workforce shortages.

We want to continue to bring the health care that every person and every family deserves to our community and region, and we need new infrastructure to do so. I hope we can all come together to support this project and continue to make northern Arizona a wonderful place to live for ourselves and future generations.
Please Vote Yes on Proposition 480 on Nov. 7.