Why we can’t renovate FMC

The site where the current Flagstaff Medical Center is built contains a conglomeration of several buildings that have been added, then renovated and expanded over the past 50 years. Despite hope among some people that we “simply renovate” FMC rather than building a new hospital, it is not possible.

The hospital has been renovated and expanded so many times in the past several decades – to keep up with the growing population and advancing medical standards – that it cannot continue to be further expanded efficiently to accommodate future population growth and to keep up with current medical standards.

For example, we’ve already lost the ability to stick to patient hallways to connect medical care units. Patients who are being moved through the hospital frequently have to go through other units and public corridors, encountering other patients and care teams along the way. There are numerous entrances that patients and visitors find confusing when they’re trying to access care. Certain elevators will take you where you need to go, but in other cases, one must take an elevator, walk a long series of halls and then take another elevator before arriving at their point of care.

We cannot make every patient room at FMC a single-bed space and also expand our capacity to serve more residents of the growing region year after year, for decades to come. That math just doesn’t work.

We cannot expand upward to create taller buildings because the structural footings of the existing facilities were not built to withstand the weight of additional vertical floors.

We are already not in an ideal state when we have to transport patients from the far west end of the campus, west of Beaver Street, to the east end of the campus across the street. Having a hospital bisected by a city street is not meeting modern medical efficiency standards.

Any claims that renovation is simple and feasible are glossing over the real facts about the inadequate result. Some people cite old NAH plans to renovate the campus, but they don’t share that those plans were deemed unworkable by healthcare architects in a study completed in 2020 for the reasons listed here.

The only way to stay at the current FMC site for the long term would be to close Beaver Street, tear down the existing structures (including negatively impacting behavioral health and oncology services) and build a new hospital. It would have to be several stories taller than the current four-story limit on the site, it would involve 12 years of continuous construction while drastically reducing how many patients we could accommodate and what medical services we could offer. Rebuilding on site would require widening Forest Ave, as the main access point (which frequently is closed in winter storms), as well as removing the majority of onsite parking during construction along with bringing the parking demand of over 800 construction workers.
Rebuilding on the current site would cost $300 million to $400 million more than a new site and in the end it would still be difficult for traffic from outside of Flagstaff to get to – an important factor to consider because 60% of the patient population we serve at FMC comes from outside of Flagstaff.

Renovation is not feasible. Demolishing our hospital and rebuilding onsite is more costly, would take longer and would not alleviate the access issues most of our patients experience.

It’s time for a new hospital, one that can be built while FMC continues to serve northern Arizona during construction, one that can meet modern medical standards for adequate space needed to care for those who need intensive treatment, one that provides private/single-bed rooms, one that is easy to get from a major interstate interchange, and so much more.

This is why we’re asking you to vote Yes on Prop. 480.