construction

Health care is a thriving sector in the West Valley, and by all accounts, the region’s industry boom has only just begun.

Consider that roughly 36% of the health care workers in Maricopa County live in the West Valley, according to Sintra Hoffman, president and CEO of WESTMARC. That’s about 41,000 skilled health care workers.

Therefore, hiring professionals for medical facilities and hospitals — particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on — can turn their attention to the West Valley as they seek to hire the talent that they need to staff positions from administrative and general practice to specialists and surgeons.

Trevor Stokes, CEO at the Partnership for Workforce Innovation, said health care is the largest private-sector employer across Maricopa County. While health care is a broad industry, one example of its impact on the Valley is that 1 in every 5 sector jobs is in a hospital.

“There has been a remarkable growth trajectory in the health care sector since 2016,” Stokes said of Maricopa County. “More than 2,000 establishments have opened in the county in that five-year period.”

He said health care subsectors, such as services for the elderly and outpatient mental health services, are growing at a rapid pace in the West Valley.

Data collected for six West Valley cities (Avondale, Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Sun City West and Surprise) found that most of the health care workers in these communities provide office and administrative support, but a significant number were practitioners, health care diagnostics, and support and technicians.

These are just some of the companies, hospitals and medical offices that are part of the expansive health care sector in the region:

• Akos Medical Campus.

• Banner Health Center.

• Banner Estrella Medical Center.

• Abrazo West Campus.

• Dignity Health.

• Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

• Palm Valley Medical Plaza.

• Integrated Medical Services.

• Adelante Healthcare.

• Center for Autism and Related Disorders.

• Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

• Copper Springs Mental Health Facility.

“The growth trajectory of the (health care) industry outperforms other sectors, like construction and manufacturing, and is consistent in its demand level,” Stokes said. 

But he cautioned that the number of health care workers needed to meet the projected demand is a concern.

West Valley health care, higher education and workforce professionals, however, are working together to develop programs and promote the industry to make sure the pipeline is full going forward.

One example of how the health care industry has taken hold in the West Valley is Avondale’s McDowell Road Corridor, also known as the Health Care Corridor, which has emerged as an attractive location for medical and retail investments and is continuing to expand.

Recent investments by the Akos Medical Group include a 68,000-square-foot, class A medical office building and surgery center, which is slated to open this summer. When completed, the new medical campus will create between 500 to 600 net new high-wage jobs for physicians, nurses, technologists and support staff in Avondale and Surprise.

ClearSky Rehabilitation Hospital recently announced its plans to build a 43,000-square-foot facility that will create 100 new health care-related jobs and serve hundreds of individuals recovering from strokes, brain injuries and spinal injuries. 

The 30-bed hospital at 109th Avenue and West McDowell Road is expected to treat 650 patients annually.

Slated to open in 2022, Avondale’s ClearSky Health will be the company’s first in Arizona, as there are five other hospitals in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico. Rehab services will include physical, occupational and speech therapy, rehabilitative nursing, case management, respiratory therapy, dietary services and other specialized care.

Akos and ClearSky join other high-profile medical firms in the corridor, such as Phoenix Children’s Hospital, which soon will begin work on a freestanding emergency department and multispecialty clinic, also in Avondale, which will provide West Valley families access to pediatric-specific emergency care and expanded specialty services.

Phoenix Children’s is investing $33.5 million to build and equip a new 71,250-square-foot, three-story medical office building and retrofit the existing 35,000-square-foot building to provide emergency services. The Southwest Campus will be built on the site of Phoenix Children’s Southwest Valley Specialty and Urgent Care Center at 1665 N. Avondale Boulevard. The new facility is expected to be open by the spring of 2023.

Robert Meyer, Phoenix Children’s Hospital CEO, said opening the Southwest Campus is part of a larger strategic effort to expand access to care for families in the West Valley and throughout the state.

Nearly 130 Phoenix Children’s employees are expected to work out of the Southwest Campus location, with half of these being new positions, according to the hospital’s website.

“Our goal is really to deliver access to care across the health care continuum close to patients and their families so they don’t have the hassle all the time of having to find us and travel so far,” said Dr. Jared Muenzer, physician in chief for Phoenix Children’s Hospital, in a recent radio interview.

The need for a new emergency department is driven by growth in the West Valley, and with that growth comes an increase of kids with serious illnesses or injuries, Muenzer said.

Phoenix Children’s plans to add more specialty services at the Southwest Campus in the future. The site’s design will accommodate additional development, up to and including inpatient care, as the community grows.

Also located in Avondale is Integrated Medical Services and Arizona Center for Cancer Care. Adjacent to the city’s Health Care Corridor is McDowell’s Restaurant Row. This area features a variety of destination dining options attracting residents and customers from across the Valley.

Banner Health is spending $106 million on expanding its Banner Boswell Medical Center at 10401 W. Thunderbird Boulevard in Sun City. The new emergency department at Boswell Medical Center is part of an overall expansion project, which includes a new patient tower that is expected to be completed in Q2 2021. This is the largest renovation the medical facility has undergone in 30 years. The new emergency department increases capacity from 42 to 56 beds, allowing the department to care for up to 60,000 emergency patients annually, representing a 25% increase.

Banner also recently added a $53 million Glendale health center — one of its largest — to its portfolio of growing properties throughout the Valley. That facility, at 128,000 square feet, has 128 exam rooms and 13 imaging rooms. It is two to three times larger than Banner’s second-largest health center, located in Peoria, and employs 215 health care professionals.

In addition, Banner opened a 56-bed, $28 million rehabilitation hospital in Peoria in September 2020. Banner Rehabilitation Hospital West is the first of three to be built under a joint venture between Banner and Select Medical. Banner Rehabilitation Hospital West offers programs and services specially designed to help patients restore strength, mobility and independence as they heal and recover from a myriad of diagnostic conditions.

Valleywise Health opened a 126,000-square-foot comprehensive health center near Grand Avenue and Cotton Crossing in Peoria. The facility offers in-person and virtual appointments for primary and pediatric care, women’s obstetrics, cardiology, dental care and dialysis, as well as a pharmacy.

The new location takes the place of previous centers in El Mirage and Glendale, according to Valleywise.

“In our mission to improve health care outcomes for patients across the Valley, we identified a specific need in the Peoria area and determined this the best location to open this truly comprehensive health center,” said Chief Nursing Officer Sherry Stotler.

Valleywise opened its general surgery, orthopedics, podiatry, gastrointestinal, audiology, diagnostic imaging and laboratory services in April.

“This is a center that residents of Peoria should be proud to have available to them, and we look forward to caring for all who need it,” Stotler said.

Last September, First Service Medical LLC paid $3.15 million to buy land in Peoria where an abandoned medical project sat for nine years. The new plan for the property still calls for building a new medical campus, said Matt Leach, principal of First Service Medical.

First Service is building an 82,000-square-foot emergency medical services hospital that is expected to employ more than 150 people. That 32-bed hospital near the southwest corner of Lake Pleasant Parkway and Jomax Road is slated to open in late 2022.

With the construction of hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation centers, the need for medical office space is surging, according to a report from Colliers Arizona. The demand for health care services will continue to grow as the population increases, which is projected to drive demand for medical office space throughout 2021.

“Health care is driven by residential growth, and the West Valley is now at 1.7 million residents,” Hoffman said.

Abrazo Surprise Hospital, the first hospital in Surprise, opened in October. The hospital, located at 16815 W. Bell Road, has a 13-bed emergency department, an operating room and eight inpatient rooms.

The one-story facility at the southwest corner of Loop 303 and West Bell Road is a satellite of Abrazo Arrowhead. The new hospital will provide medical care beyond what’s available at an urgent care or freestanding emergency center, said Administrative Director Chrissy Salazar. With only about 32,000 square feet, Abrazo Surprise is smaller than a typical general hospital. It still offers surgical services, a full emergency department, inpatient rooms, ultrasound, X-ray and CT scan, laboratory, pharmacy and other services.

Honor Health also is looking to acquire some medical group practices in the West Valley and purchase land for possible future development in the region, according to Leah Hill, a workforce development consultant at Honor Health. Additionally, Honor Health has partnered with FastMed to open urgent cares throughout the state, including Avondale and Buckeye.