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With over 500 employees, Oro Valley Hospital is large enough to provide a full spectrum of health services, yet still small enough to send a doctor to the Oro Valley Community & Recreation Center to explain how to stay safe while playing pickleball.
“The best thing about Oro Valley Hospital is its size,” says Cameron Lewis, Chief Administrative Officer. “We are big enough to have exciting things happening in terms of growth, but small enough that we know each other by name when we pass in the hallways. We have a family type of culture.”
Founded in 2005, Oro Valley Hospital is a 300,000 square foot private hospital.
The emergency room at Oro Valley Hospital sees 38,700 patients per year. The hospital serves 134,000 patients per year on an outpatient basis, and 6,400 patients for inpatient treatment. Areas of medical specialization include:
The hospital offers 176 acute-care beds. Almost all bed-bound patients (with the exception of some patients in the Behavioral Health Unit) enjoy private rooms — many with mountain views. Flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi are welcome perks. Artwork from local artists adorns many of the hallways, lobbies and public spaces.
Over 50% of patients are over 65, and thus eligible for Medicare. As such, geriatric care is a major component of all hospital operations.
Northwest Transitions is a new, stand-alone facility for inpatient rehabilitation that opened in late 2021. It serves patients receiving post-acute care – i.e., those who need intensive and hands-on therapeutic support to return to their functional baseline. There are physical, occupational, and speech therapists.
“When most people think of physical therapy, they picture outpatient therapy, which is where a patient might come in for an hour to stretch, exercise, and work with a therapist.” explains Mr. Lewis. “Northwest Transitions inpatient rehab center is much more intensive. The therapists spend several hours each day providing individualized care for each patient.” (“They really work you good!” he adds with a chuckle.)
The average inpatient physical therapy patient spends 10 days in the Transitions inpatient facility.
In addition to Northwest Transitions, Oro Valley Hospital opened a skilled nursing unit in early 2022. This new facility provides another opportunity for the hospital to take care of patients who are discharged from the hospital, but need some additional support before they are ready to go home.
The state-of-the art facilities include robot-assisted surgical care, which is used for many of the 8200 procedures performed at OVH each year.
“These robotic aids can help with a variety of surgeries, from joint replacement to general surgery to urology cases,” says Mr. Lewis. “The surgeon works from a console, controlling the arms of the instrument. This can make surgery possible with 4 or 5 tiny incisions, rather than one large one. This is less invasive and can significantly reduce recovery time.”
Oro Valley Hospital has an ongoing policy of supporting staff with their professional licenses. Employees such as nurses and physical therapists typically have to pay to renew their license every few years. The hospital often covers these costs.
Employees are also encouraged to pursue further education in the medical field — for example, to gain skills related to nursing, x-ray technical equipment, or dietetics. “Our mission is to care for patients, so we seek to encourage employees to obtain any kind of training that allows them to better serve our patients,” explains Mr. Lewis.
And just in the last couple of years, the hospital has introduced a novel program to assist employees with paying off their school loans.
“COVID was such a challenge from a staffing perspective that we had to reimagine how we attract good employees,” explains Mr. Lewis. “Our new student loan repayment program pays up to $20,000 of student loans over 5 years.” (The average college graduate in 2023 carries almost $39,000 in student debt.)
Another way that Oro Valley Hospital supports its employees is through its unique Cares Fund.
“This is a special fund for employees experiencing difficult times,” says Mr. Cameron. “For example, we have one employee on our acute floor who was facing medical bills for the treatment of a brain tumor. The Cares Fund was able to pay for some of her medical bills.”
The United States is currently experiencing a major shortage of Primary Care Physicians, and Pima County is no exception.
With the launch of the Graduate Medical Education Program in 2022, Oro Valley Hospital has officially become a teaching hospital for medical residents. In 2023, the hospital will welcome its inaugural class of internal medicine residents, and in 2024 and 2025, the residency program will expand to include transitional year and family medicine programs. While the length of a residency varies by specialty, both internal medicine and family medicine programs are a three-year residency.
“One of the reasons for the lack of primary care physicians is that there are not enough facilities in which to train them,” says Mr. Lewis. By opening a new teaching program, Oro Valley Hospital is addressing the shortage of physicians – both on a national and local level.
“Research has shown that physicians often stay in the same community where they carry out their residency. This new program will help our hospital place new physicians, and also bring new physicians into Pima County.”
Oro Valley Hospital is part of Northwest Healthcare, which operates four medical campuses in Tucson. Each campus specializes in certain lines of health services. For example, Oro Valley Hospital is unique in the inpatient rehabilitation, skilled nursing, and behavioral health services offered, but the hospital does not offer open heart surgery. “We have a shared vision to help patients in Pima County get well and live healthier, but we don’t want to compete with one another,” says Mr. Lewis.
The 2022 financial overview of Northwest’s four-campus network shows that $65.4 million went to charitable giving and uncompensated care. The report shows a total community impact of $613 million (which includes payroll, taxes, and capital investment).
Hospital staff try to be active in the community as well. For example, Oro Valley Hospital staffed a booth at a recent health event at Steam Pump Ranch, where they stressed the importance of colonoscopies as an important tool for early diagnosis. They also provided information to the public about their lines of service, outpatient treatment, and available primary care physicians.
“At the end of the day, we’re your neighbors. We want to support our community, and we want to be your health care provider of choice across the continuum of care. We’re honored to care for you, each and every day,” said Mr. Lewis.
By Tom Ekman, J.D., M.Ed.