Arizona’s days of being know as a place that provides allergy and lung cures are long gone — cars and construction have produced an abundance of carbon monoxide and dust. Today, however, Arizona is seen as a leader in innovative care.
In 1971, the Arizona Heart Institute (AHI) was founded, quickly becoming one of country’s first freestanding outpatient clinics solely dedicated to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart and blood vessel disease. Last year, AHI went into bankruptcy and was purchased by Abrazo Health Care, whose flagship hospital in the Valley is Phoenix Baptist Hospital.
Mayo Clinic, which opened its Scottsdale facility in 1987, serves more than 90,000 patients each year, focusing on adult specialty and surgical care in more than 65 medical and surgical areas. On a 210-acre site in Northeast Phoenix, Mayo Clinic Hospital, completed in 1998, is the first hospital planned, designed and built by Mayo Clinic.
In Downtown Phoenix, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a nonprofit genomics research facility, was established in 2002. Public and private sources raised $90 million to build the institute, which houses the International Genomics Consortium (IGC) headquarters and TGen.
TGen’s focus is on assembling its own genomics research platforms, leading to tests and innovative therapies in the battle against cancer and other life-threatening and debilitating diseases.
Even before the emergence of TGen, the state was a nexus for cancer research and care.
Since 1976, the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson has been a pioneer in the fight against cancer. The facility, along with the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Scottsdale, is designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as one of just two Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Arizona.
Scottsdale Healthcare also offers cancer patients cutting edge clinical trials by being a clinical research site for TGen. Meanwhile, the Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, housed at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center, has a program that is open to all cancer patients, regardless of where they’re receiving treatment.
Two relative newcomers on the cancer treatment scene in the Valley are the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Western Regional Medical Center in Goodyear and the MD Anderson Banner Cancer Center on the campus of Banner Gateway Medical Center in the East Valley.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America opened in December 2009. Scheduled to open later this year, the MD Anderson Banner Cancer Center will have 76 patient beds on two floors in Banner Gateway.
John Rivers, who retired in 2010 after 25 years as CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA), says Arizona’s health care industry has been driven by the state’s population explosion.
“We had to build more hospitals and we had to significantly expand and modernize hospitals already here,” Rivers says.
Since 1990, Arizona hospital employment growth has significantly outpaced the annual employment growth of hospitals nationally. During that time, Arizona hospital employment soared 46 percent, while nationwide, hospital employment increased 24 percent. Between 2007 and 2011, hospital construction in Arizona will have created thousands of jobs each year and infused billions into the state’s economy, according to AzHHA.
Public health care
Arizona’s version of Medicaid, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), was started in October 1982 as a demonstration project. Until 1988, AHCCCS covered only short-term acute care, generally associated with care provided in an emergency department, ambulatory care clinic, or other short-term stay facility. It also provided limited post-hospital and skilled nursing facility coverage and had some 200,000 enrollees.
By 2010, impacted by the state’s weak economy, AHCCCS’ population, including children and the mentally ill, was 1.356 million. The worse the economy gets, the more enrollees flock to AHCCCS, adding to Arizona’s current massive budget problems.
In a cruel twist, those massive budget problems are in turn leading the state to cut AHCCCS care. In January, Gov. Jan Brewer asked the federal government for a waiver from the maintenance of effort requirement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The waiver would result in about 280,000 Arizonans losing their AHCCCS eligibility. In a letter, Brewer said $1 billion of the state’s $1.2 billion FY 2012 deficit is attributable to AHCCCS. The waiver would save the state about $540 million.
Coverage would be eliminated to 250,000 childless adults and would be reduced for approximately 30,000 parents effective Oct. 1.