/ Modified apr 3, 2020 11:01 a.m.

Pandemic threatens hospital in Green Valley as patient visits decrease

The facility might close unless state officials use it as a coronavirus treatment center.

While many hospitals around the country are straining to deal with a flood of coronavirus patients, one facility in Green Valley is struggling to survive a lack of patients.

Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital has struggled since opening in 2015 as Green Valley Hospital. After the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered hospitals to postpone elective procedures, and SCVRH says its patient visits dropped by 40% as residents sought to avoid possible COVID-19 exposure. As a result, Santa Cruz CEO Kelly Adams claims his facility is potentially a few weeks away from having to close its doors.

Last week Adams presented state health officials with a plan to turn the hospital into a "COVID-19 treatment resource" with 86 patient beds and five intensive care beds. In a slide presentation obtained by AZPM through a public records request, hospital officials say the facility's location away from the state's population center, but in the midst of a large retirement community, make it "a priority destination" for cases in southern Pima County, as well as overflow cases from Tucson.

Saturday, the Arizona Department of Health Services declined SCVRH's request. In an email obtained by AZPM, DHS official Carla Berg wrote, "At this time...we are not able to commit to assistance at the Santa Cruz facility." Berg wrote that the state's direction included "a focus on an acute care hospital site in Phoenix."

On Monday, Adams wrote Ducey appealing for him to reconsider the request. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and Chief Medical Officer Francisco Garcia also took an interest in the issue.

"We're going to deal with the Santa Cruz Valley Hospital issue later today," Huckelberry said at a special Board of Supervisors meeting Thursday to address COVID-related matters.

In a phone call Thursday afternoon, Adams said the governor and others in the county are taking a second look. "And so I'm very, very pleased to say that it's still very much alive — our plan's alive and I like the attention that folks, particularly Dr. Garcia here at Pima County, is giving us," he said.

Adams also said state and county officials are scheduled to make site visits to the Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital as early as Friday. He said federal stimulus money approved by Congress could arrive next week, giving the hospital a little breathing room as it seeks a path forward.

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