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Healthcare options likely changing as NAH runs analytics

Long-term, the emergency department of Northern Arizona Healthcare in Sedona is in a precarious situation as NAH evaluates its services in Yavapai County.

In its outreach to communities and organizations ostensibly to get feedback on its five-year plan and gain “collaboration,” NAH made it clear changes are coming. Meeting with the Sedona City Council June 14, President/CEO Flo Spyrow said she was committed to keeping emergency services in the Sedona area for five years. However, what that looks like for the five years and what happens afterward is a question.

Also unsettled is the future of the Sedona Breast Care program, highly touted as state-of-the-art but having to go through a transition this year as a breast surgeon and oncologist left. NAH is bringing on board a leader experienced with MD Anderson at Banner Health “to look at how do we really develop a high-quality cancer center across our system, not in any one particular town, but across the system to serve the needs of Northern Arizona,” Spyrow said.

While NAH owns about 37 acres in the Sedona area in several parcels including and surrounding its campus, Chief Operating Officer Josh Tinkle said there are no current plans for it.

NAH is running analytics on population trends, discharge data and insurance claims to measure its clinical needs, said Jim Elco, vice president of strategy and financial planning.

He said though census data show the region growing 0.5% per year, the population of the Village of Oak Creek went down 0.31% between 2010 and 2020, and the population of Sedona shrank 3.4%. However the Red Rock Loop Road area and the Big Park area (beyond VOC) have had huge growth.

While the corporation’s focus used to be hospital-based, Elco said, now they are trying to grow its medical group, an industry trend.

Tinkle said the focus is “to get all the basics right,” such as primary care, lab work, emergency care and outpatient imaging, before adding lesser-used specialties. That may mean sending more patients out of the area for specialist care.

While Spyrow said NAH has been successful at recruiting this year, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners outnumber medical doctors.

One of the continuing issues with recruiting and retaining quality staff members has been the cost of housing. Asked if NAH had looked into using its land to build workforce housing, Spyrow said NAH was not in the housing business.

Sedona Vice Mayor Scott Jablow noted Sedona is losing people and NAH specifically is losing people because of housing.

“If you’re going to do anything, you’ have to get into the housing business,” Jablow said. “We need your medical staff here.”

Tinkle said NAH employees range widely in age and experience and have varying opinions about workforce housing. In a staff survey, he said, several said they did not want to live with the people they work with all day. Spyrow said staff also don’t want to live in apartments or condos but in single-family homes.

Meanwhile, as NAH may be shrinking its offerings in the Sedona-Verde Valley area, it has expansion plans in Flagstaff, with a proposal for a Health and Wellness Village.

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