Hospital Awaits Key Inspections

By MARK COWLING
Editor

Published: Thursday, April 15, 2010 9:35 AM MST

Florence Community Healthcare officials were aiming for “substantial completion” of their renovations of the former Central Arizona Medical Center earlier this week. They plan to ask the town of Florence for a Certificate of Occupancy next week.

From there, the grand opening will still be several weeks away while the hospital at 450 W. Adamsville Road awaits two key state inspections. Because of the state’s budget woes, a staff of what was once eight medical facility inspectors is now down to just two, hospital official Gary Faulkner told the Florence Woman’s Club last week.

The hospital hopes to welcome an inspection from the Arizona Department of Health Services architecture office toward the end of this month, followed by an inspection from the ADHS licensing services around the second week of May.

24/7 care

Faulkner said the hospital will have MDs on staff around the clock, not physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners. There will be MDs called “hospitalists” who will check on inpatients around the clock.

All nurses will be RNs, as opposed to LPNs. The hospital received 34 more applications from RNs than they had positions, so the hospital was able to hire good candidates, Faulkner said.
He said the hospital is planning around-the-clock visiting hours seven days a week because of local shift work.

Del Webb built the facility in 1976 for Pinal County. Then-county administrator Jay Bateman had it built way above the standards applicable at that time. In just one example, the building has aluminum racks above the acoustical ceiling for computer wiring. Although hospitals used few computers in the 1970s, they’re essential equipment today. “[Bateman] was way ahead of his time,” Faulkner said.

If the facility has any faults, one might be that it is so big for the still small town of Florence. At 90,000 square feet, “it’s really too big for the community at this time,” Faulkner said. The kitchen can feed 300 people at a time.

To make full use of the building, the hospital is planning to offer long-term care. The hospital is collecting applications from local residents interested in volunteering in long-term care, in areas such as administration, community events, the information desk, non-patient care, patient care and patient/guest escort.

Hospital owner Initiatives Healthcare Inc. (IHI) has learned the top three things patients want from a hospital are convenient parking, fast service and getting rid of the pain. “Our goal is to accomplish those things very rapidly,” Faulkner said.

Faulkner took just one gentle jab at the other future local hospital. While that organization touts its ER policy of “door to doc” in a certain number of minutes, the mere fact of a doctor touching base with you doesn’t mean you’re being treated, Faulkner said. Florence Community Healthcare “wants you to get through the door and be treated in so many minutes. … We want you to be treated fairly quickly.”

In the meantime, Faulkner said it’s been challenging for the hospital to arrange for the arrival of key supplies at the right time. Building supplies, medical equipment and even beds have to be ordered “quite a bit in advance.” If they arrive too soon, they would be in the way of renovations and there’s nowhere in town with enough space to store them.

The hospital is owned by IHI of Boise, Idaho, with offices in Chicago, Salt Lake City and London. “We are not a doctor-owned hospital,” which is prohibited in the new health care bill, Faulkner told the Woman’s Club. There are however 53 physicians who have invested in the hospital and own 14 percent of the stock.

The hospital does not have a secure area for holding inmate patients. But when inmates come in for treatment, they will be secured in a special area of the emergency room away from the general public.

In response to questions from club members, Faulkner said little dogs won’t be welcome to come along on hospital visits, and the hospital will be a smoke-free campus.

The county sold the hospital to Casa Grande Regional Medical Center in 1993. CGRMC closed it in October of 1999 after major renovations in 1997 and 1999. The building was sold to Westin Financial in 2006, and then sold in February of 2009 to IHI. Renovation and construction began in August of 2009.