NAH reimagines health care with state-of-the-art hospital, ambulatory center and wellness hub in the pines.
Northern Arizona Healthcare has a $750 million vision for how health care can best be delivered in a unique healing environment, anchored by a state-of-the-art hospital and ambulatory center amidst the ponderosa pines. The proposed Health and Wellness Village is to include businesses and services and is situated on 190 acres of NAH property on the west side of Interstate 17, north of Fort Tuthill County Park, near the Flagstaff Airport.
“We’re embarking on an ambitious program to enhance the quality of care we provide,” said NAH President and CEO Flo Spyrow. “This will not only be the biggest project in Northern Arizona, but likely the biggest project for years to come in all of Arizona, bringing jobs and economic viability as well as amazing health care to citizens of Northern Arizona,” she said in a news conference delivered through Zoom.
Chief Administrative Officer Josh Tinkle called it “a momentous occasion” as NAH began the process of making the vision a reality by submitting its application for zoning modifications to the City of Flagstaff in late April.
“You can work in health care your entire career and never have the opportunity to reimagine what health care should be delivered,” said Tinkle. “What we envision is not only an acute hospital with an ambulatory campus, but really a wellness village that’s a destination for all of Northern Arizona. Some of the new features that we expect to see on the platform itself, being the hospital and ambulatory clinic, will be more open spaces, more natural light, more modern infrastructure and technology to take care of all the patients, [with] more respite spaces for families. And then on the broader campus, we expect to see more wellness offerings such as yoga, healthy food options, eventually some residential development over our commercial spaces, etc.”
NAH Vice President of Construction and Real Estate Steve Eiss says the project, expected to be approved by the end of the year, will be a “huge economic development engine” for Flagstaff, starting with the development process.
“We are anticipating at peak, 750 to 800 construction workers on site at any given time,” he said. “That is not inclusive of engineering and architecture staff that we feel will be in the 50 to 60 jobs range. So, we’re talking about four to five solid years of construction creating not only jobs in that industry, but also dollars to be spent in the Flagstaff community by these workers.”
“That doesn’t include the other 120 acres that will be developed into the future and the construction and businesses that will locate there and begin to contribute to the economic viability and thriving, quite frankly, of Flagstaff,” added Spyrow.
Officials say a Health and Wellness Village is a relatively new concept in health care, bringing onto one site clinical and hospital-based health care, outpatient services, rehabilitation, sports medicine, and residential and patient or provider housing. Amenities such as spas, gyms, health food stores and restaurants also could be in the mix as all of the experiences are designed to have a central location for services, and to focus on keeping populations well.
“We are developing a healthy lifestyle destination in Flagstaff that will take care of Northern Arizona residents with an emphasis on wellness, innovation, virtual and world-class care,” said Tinkle. “We will create a gathering place for the community. This will be a sanctuary highly integrated with its natural environment that helps community members relieve stress and engage in healthy lifestyle choices.”
NAH officials say the concept for the health village is being influenced by the impact of COVID-19. “Through the pandemic, we went through some really tough times with our staff and all the patients that we take care of. The facilities did not meet the needs for all of the communities that we serve in a global pandemic situation,” said Tinkle.
He described the challenges and heartbreak doctors, nurses and families faced. “Initially for the patients, families could not visit because we did not have appropriate ventilation systems for them to come in and see their loved ones. So, oftentimes, the nurse was the one enabling that final good-bye to the loved one through an iPad as they held their iPad in front of them and watched the loved one pass away on a screen. This is not the way we want to deliver health care in the future,” he said. “We envision in the new facility, we’ll have better technology that we can get people more integrated in the care delivery and if we ever get in a situation where we can’t allow visitors, the technology will be in the room.”
HKS Architects, a Phoenix design firm, has been engaged to work on the hospital design. “Some of the things we’ll be focusing on and some lessons learned from COVID are specifically centered around single occupancy rooms, making sure that we have that space for our patients and then specifically the HVAC for the building and having some flexibility in that HVAC system to be able to create negative pressure environments and exhaust our buildings more efficiently than we can in our older facilities,” said Eiss.
Spyrow says some aspects of the care delivery industry will never be the same. “Telemedicine has expanded, virtual care has expanded, and so as we design these facilities, we have an opportunity to connect to more people than we ever have before and to design facilities that facilitate that connection and care close to home for many, many communities across Northern Arizona.”
The Health Village also is intended to incorporate cultural values of the region. “This is really an opportunity for us to look at who we serve – and one of those major populations is the Native American population – and really look at how we can bring some of their culture and healing into our buildings and bring the outdoor in so people feel like they’re close to nature, even as they’re sitting in a patient room or maybe an exam room,” she said. “We intend for this to be really holistic in our approach.”
NAH expects to announce the builder for the project in early June. “Most likely that contractor will not be located here in the Flagstaff area because of the size and complexity of this project, but we have made a commitment to use, as much as we can, local workers and local businesses as they subcontract work out over the next five years for this project,” said Spyrow.
The anticipated Health and Wellness Village, advanced technology and healing environment is expected to help NAH recruit and retain top physicals, nurses and technicians.
Officials had explored options for updating the aging Flagstaff Medical Center, but determined the space was too constrained. “We have an inability to grow in any direction outside of having to cannibalize our space, which was looked at early on and it involved so much trouble and rework within the existing facility and would be such an impact to patient care that it was deemed as a project that couldn’t be successful for our patients,” said Eiss.
As NAH makes the transition from Flagstaff Medical Center, there will be a time when both campuses are operating. Eiss says NAH will be working with the city as it updates its general plan to determine the best use for the FMC property to meet community needs. FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN