Kitchell-built Valleywise Health Medical Center set to open on April 11

What to know about the new $463 million Valleywise Health hospital on Roosevelt Street in Phoenix

Maricopa County’s public health system is set to open April 11 a new, $463 million hospital at Roosevelt and 24th streets in Phoenix, replacing a 53-year-old facility that’s getting torn down.

The current Valleywise Health Medical Center, which is the health system’s flagship hospital, is cramped, outdated and roughly one-third the size of the new, 673,000 square-foot 10-story hospital, which has been constructed on land next to the old one over the past four years.

The close proximity of the two hospitals means moving from old to new won’t be a long journey for patients and staff, though it will be a carefully orchestrated process that staff will rehearse before it happens.

The new facility has more natural light, higher ceilings, wider hallways and single patient rooms only, reflecting design updates that are vastly different from the way hospitals were constructed in 1971, when the existing Valleywise Health Medical Center opened after four years of construction. It was known back then as the Maricopa County General Hospital.

“We were committed to not just taking old processes and then putting them into a new facility,” said Steve Purves, Valleywise Health president and CEO. “We worked with a variety of different teams to make sure that the processes and the patient flow was redesigned.”

Here are seven things to know about the new Valleywise Health Medical Center.

It may seem counterintuitive that a new hospital in an area like Phoenix with a growing population would have a lower bed count than the hospital it’s replacing, but it actually makes sense when one considers changes in health care, particularly the growth of outpatient treatment, said Dr. Michael White, Valleywise Health chief medical officer.

The new facility has a lower bed count than the old one

It may seem counterintuitive that a new hospital in an area like Phoenix with a growing population would have a lower bed count than the hospital it’s replacing, but it actually makes sense when one considers changes in health care, particularly the growth of outpatient treatment, said Dr. Michael White, Valleywise Health chief medical officer.

“There are many more problems that we treat outpatient today that we used to treat as an inpatient,” White said.

Patient rooms in the new hospital will be private, single occupancy, which is a contrast to the old facility, which was originally made with some rooms for up to four patients.

“Now I’d say we’re getting up to what I consider as the community standard for health care delivery in an inpatient setting,” White said.

The new hospital will have 240 patient beds, a drop from 345 in the old one. However, hospital leaders have made space for future growth if it’s needed. The 10th floor of the new hospital will be “shelled,” meaning it won’t be used right now but could be in upcoming years, if more patient beds become necessary.

The COVID-19 pandemic inspired some of the design

The COVID-19 pandemic, which happened during the first year of construction on the new hospital, inspired design changes. Entire floors of the new hospital can be turned into

“negative pressure” rooms, where the air pressure in the patient room is lower to prevent contaminating other areas of the hospital with dangerous pathogens such as the virus that causes COVID-19.

“We increased the number of respiratory isolation rooms that we have,” White said.

“Between the architects and the mechanical team we were able to design floors within this building that can be switched on and off for pandemic readiness, if we ever have to do that again.”

The burn center will be significantly bigger and updated

The Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise Health Medical Center has the highest level of burn care in Arizona and attracts adult and pediatric patients from across the Southwest. But the burn center was more of an “afterthought” in the current hospital and uses multiple spaces in various parts of the facility, which can be confusing for patients.

“This was really an opportunity to design it from the ground up. We didn’t have to retrofit everything into an old ’60s vintage building. We finally have facilities that really reflect the quality of care that’s being delivered,” Purves said. ”

The extra space means the Diane & Bruce Halle Arizona Burn Center will occupy an entire floor in the new hospital, and will have a large, up-to-date physical and occupational rehabilitation facility, and hyperbaric oxygen for wound treatment.

The new hospital was built as part of a $935 million bond

In 2014, voters authorized a $935 million bond that included replacing Valleywise Health Medical Center and funding other upgrades at the campus. That bond authorization was separate from the Proposition 449 tax levy to continue secondary property tax funding for Valleywise Health in Maricopa for up to 20 years, which passed in 2020.

The first portion of the new hospital project was to build a new central utility plant, which will result in utility savings of about a half million per year due to increased efficiency, hospital leaders said.

The emergency room entrance will remain on the same side

The emergency department for the existing hospital, at 2601 E. Roosevelt St. at 24th Street, is on the south side of the building and may be accessed from East Pierce Street via 24th Street and that is not going to change in the new hospital, officials said.

The Valleywise emergency department is the highest Level One trauma for adults, and for pediatrics, it’s Level Two.

The old hospital will be torn down in phases

The existing hospital will likely come down in phases as it’s too close to the new building to implode it, Purves said.

“It’s going to be a process,” he said. “Once the old hospital and old buildings are torn down, that gives us a lot more flexibility in terms of a campus master plan.”

Valleywise Health is more fortunate than some other health care systems when it came to replacing its outdated facility because it had enough land to construct the new hospital directly next to the old one.

In Flagstaff, residents recently voted down a plan to relocate Flagstaff Medical Center south of the city, which means hospital operators from Northern Arizona Healthcare will need to figure out a solution to replacing its aging 1986 hospital. Leaders have said it’s not possible to renovate and rebuild on its existing Flagstaff Medical Center campus north of downtown Flagstaff.

Valleywise Health began as a ‘pest house’ in the 1800s

Valleywise Health can trace its beginnings as far back as 1877 before Arizona was a state when Maricopa County created a “pest house” for people with dangerous, contagious diseases such as smallpox, says a history book about the health system written by Dr. MacDonald Wood. The title of the book, published by Heritage Publisher in 1999, is, “From a Pest House, To a Hospital, To a System.”

Over the years, the hospital became known as Maricopa County General Hospital and in 1971 moved to its current location at 2601 E. Roosevelt Street. The name was changed to Maricopa Medical Center in 1983 “to reflect a more positive public perception,” the health system’s website says.

The Maricopa Integrated Health System formed from Maricopa Medical Center in 1991. In 2003, Maricopa County voters approved a Special Health Care District. Members of the district board are public officials, elected by the voters of Maricopa County. The five members of the board serve a four-year term.

In 2018, Maricopa Integrated Health System announced it was changing its name to Valleywise Health to “more effectively articulate under one distinct and memorable name our bold vision to improve community health,” Purves said at the time.

Throughout its history, Valleywise Health has served a disproportionately high level of low-income patients who are uninsured, underinsured or covered by Medicaid or Medicare and the zip code where it’s located — 85008 — was one of the hardest-hit areas for COVID-19 illness reported during the early months of the pandemic.

Read the original story here.

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