Sun, Aug. 07

My Turn: Verde Valley and Sedona: Is your healthcare at risk?

Tom Taylor

Tom Taylor

Northern Arizona healthcare (NAH) plans to reduce medical services for residents of the Verde Valley and Sedona communities. Why? The most obvious reason is to expand healthcare in Flagstaff. NAH wants to build a new medical facility near the Flagstaff Airport/Fort Tuthill at a projected cost in the neighborhood of $800 million.

It’s unclear what care services will disappear from Verde Valley Medical Center, Camp Verde Clinic, Sedona and VOC Medical centers. Residents of Sedona recently had to fight to keep emergency services rather than accept NAH’s plan for a less comprehensive ‘Urgent Care” at the Sedona Medical Center. This strategy by NAH is not “Improving health, healing people” as their mission statement suggests.

Access to medical care is vital to our seniors and families in the Verde Valley and Sedona areas. Challenging for those who lack basic transportation already, it is unreasonable to expect people to travel an hour to/from a doctor’s appointment or lab test in Flagstaff, particularly during the winter months. No one should need to travel an icy freeway in the middle of the night during an emergency. Families would be required to stay in a hotel to be near a hospitalized loved one. Imagine the inconvenience and expense.

How does NAH adequately evaluate the healthcare needs of our communities? Today, only a single member of the NAH board lives within the Verde Valley. Compare that to pre-1995 when all 12 members of Verde Valley Medical Center either lived in the area or had very deep roots in the area. Primary care providers are over-scheduled, and patients must wait to be seen. The Verde Valley is growing. This area needs more care, not less. NAH says recruiting providers is difficult. Perhaps it is time to welcome, encourage and support independent providers to care for patients in communities where the patients live.

Residents of the Verde Valley and Sedona must stay alert and demand to be heard. Our elected officials and community leaders are people who care about the quality of life in their cities and towns. In addition, the Yavapai County supervisors representing the Verde Valley and Sedona are concerned about resources moving from Yavapai County to Coconino County. Call or write your concerns to these influential leaders.

Resources are more than just dollars. People are resources too. When caregivers leave the community, we lose respected professionals who elevate and strengthen our society. It is hard to believe that clinicians would want to commute to Flagstaff every day so they would have to move.

Talk with your friends and neighbors. Learn what your Verde Valley or Sedona based healthcare providers have to say. Then act. Your healthcare is at risk.

Supervisor Donna Michaels – 928-649-6227; Supervisor James Gregory – 928-771-3393; Camp Verde Mayor Dee Jenkins – 928-554-0024; Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski – 928-340-2725; Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty – 928-282-3113; Jerome Mayor Dr. Jack Dillenberg – 602-751-5225; Clarkdale Mayor Robyn Prud’homme-Bauer – 928-639-2400.

Tom Taylor was a member of the Verde Valley Medical Center board for 27 years.

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