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Extensive study generates recommendations to expand public health system

When I agreed to chair the Maricopa Integrated Health System’s Bond Advisory Committee, I thought I knew all about Maricopa County’s public hospital and health care system.

But after months of studying the needs of the organization, let me assure you that MIHS is much more than just the Maricopa Medical Center. MIHS is an academic training center, a regional provider of primary and specialized medical services, a leading provider of mental health services and a driver of new treatments and technologies. It’s also an economic engine, employing about 4,000 people.

This broad range of services benefits the entire community, including those who never enter the doors of the hospital or our 11 neighborhood health centers. As Maricopa County’s only public teaching hospital, MIHS trains more than 400 doctors a year, most of whom remain in the local community.

MIHS dates back to 1871, with the creation of our county’s first safety net facility. Voters reaffirmed its community-critical mission in 2003, when they voted to create the Maricopa County Special Health Care District and support MIHS with public funding.  The elected MIHS Board of Directors has done a good job of finding ways to do more with less, making the best use of aging facilities, and protecting Maricopa County taxpayers with a strong track record of fiscal responsibility.

However, the passing of time, shifting community needs and changing care models have rendered many of the facilities functionally obsolete and exceedingly costly to operate.  The Maricopa Medical Center is more than 40 years old and maintenance has consumed nearly every capital dollar available over the past ten years.

In response to these challenges, the MIHS Board of Directors launched a transparent, deliberative process to gather public input and consider potential bond options based on their mission, vision, community need, facility assessment, and investment criteria.

They formed a Bond Advisory Committee comprised of 15 committed community and health care leaders from across the region.  The charter the board gave us provided guidance on three main purposes:

• Review, prioritize and make recommendations to the MIHS Board of Directors on proposed bond projects in support of MIHS’ mission, vision, and community needs.

• Develop a potential proposal comprised of prioritized projects and make a recommendation to the district board regarding the issuance of bonds or any other viable financing vehicle to fund the prioritized capital projects, including the consideration of a bond election.

• Obtain public comment, community and stakeholder input, and expert opinion into bond project and proposal deliberations.

The process was an extensive one – conducting a series of public meetings from March of last year through February to take a comprehensive look at community need and the voter-mandated mission of MIHS.  We met with stakeholders from across the region, held Town Hall meetings, interviewed experts, toured every facility, and have performed thousands of hours of research.

Based on our research and discussion, the committee recently voted to recommend to the MIHS Board of Directors: grow medical education, expand outpatient health centers, increase behavioral health capacity, replace and right-size the public teaching hospital, complete an economic impact study, develop a bond proposal and a bond communication plan, and create a collaborative community stakeholder engagement plan.

The MIHS Board will now study these recommendations. We have confidence they will make wise decisions and a smart investment in the future healthcare of this region.

We would like to thank the MIHS Board for the opportunity to be part of the Bond Advisory Committee.  We believe these recommendations represent the needs of our community and look forward to their deliberation.

— William Post is chairman of the Maricopa Integrated Health System’s Bond Advisory Committee.

 Bond Advisory Committee members:

• William J. Post (Chairman)

• Lattie Coor, Ph.D. (Vice Chairman)

• Tony Astorga

• Paul Charlton

• Kote Chundu, M.D.

• Frank Fairbanks

• Juanita “Nita” Francis

• Merwin Grant

• Doug Hirano

• Diane McCarthy

• Terence McMahon (Ex-Officio)

• Rick Naimark

• Joey Ridenour

• Brian Spicker

• Ted Williams

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