In wake of deal between MIHS and UA med school, focus shifts to new hospital

July 25, 2011

By hammersmith

With approval by the Arizona Board of Regents blessing their relationship, the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix and Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS) have finalized an agreement making MIHS the medical school’s primary teaching hospital. The deal has fueled hopes that a new hospital for MIHS could be built on or near the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

Proponents of the biosciences have long sought to bring to the downtown Biomedical Campus a teaching hospital with a substantial emphasis on clinical research, envisioning such a hospital as a complement to cornerstone organizations of the campus like the College of Medicine, the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the International Genomics Consortium, and the soon-to-be-built Arizona Cancer Center clinic. In addition to its role in educating medical students and resident physicians, a hospital would provide an avenue for promising medical devices, diagnostics, and therapeutics emerging from Arizona laboratories to reach patients more quickly.

Speculation about a new MIHS hospital intensified in late June when Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon declared that one of the highest priorities for his administration’s final months would be seeing plans for a new hospital move forward. An Arizona Republic editorial last week quoted Betsy Bayless, president and CEO of MIHS, asserting that “the hallmark of a great city is a great public teaching hospital.”

Substantial obstacles, though, stand between the desire to add a jewel to the crown of the Biomedical Campus and actually breaking ground on a new facility. Among the challenges:

  • Numerous parties would have to join forces on the project, including MIHS, UA and the Board of Regents, the City of Phoenix, and financing and construction partners;

  • Those collaborators would have to adopt of a shared vision of what kind of hospital should be built, whether a grand-scale, multi-specialty hospital to match the enormity and complexity of metropolitan Phoenix, or a smaller hospital filling a niche not already occupied by other area hospitals;

  • Regardless of the hospital’s size, paying for its construction would be difficult, given the restrictive private-sector financing environment and the ongoing budget woes of state and federal funders.

On the other hand, examples like the pending Cancer Center facility and UA’s under-construction Health Sciences Education Building illustrate that the lingering impact of the Great Recession does not necessarily preclude new major initiatives.

Bayless has acknowledged that much work remains before a deal for a hospital takes shape, but she sees it as an eventual necessity that has been moved forward with the affiliation agreement.

“Part of the affiliation talks are about facilities, and I want to build a hospital,” Bayless said in the Phoenix Business Journal. “That is not in the cards in the immediate future, but Maricopa is going to have to build a new hospital. We’re not going to be able to go forever with the one we’ve got.”

Bayless’s counterpart at the College of Medicine, Stuart Flynn, described the affiliation as a starting point.

“The younger you are, you can forge these relationships certainly with the understanding that you’re prepared for the relationship. The earlier you do it, everything spins off of this in a positive way,” Dr. Flynn said in the Arizona Republic.

For more information:

Medical drama comes to life,” Arizona Republic, 07/21/2011

Agreement sets stage for new downtown Phoenix hospital,” Phoenix Business Journal, 06/30/2011

Affiliation between UA, MIHS first step toward downtown Phoenix hospital,” Phoenix Business Journal, 06/03/2011

University of Arizona, Maricopa Integrated Health System sign deal,” Arizona Republic, 5/27/2011