HEALTHCARE CRISIS: Hospital in Green Valley closes due to financial difficulties

Rural hospital closes for financial reasons
Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 11:38 PM MST|Updated: Jul. 1, 2022 at 11:17 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - On Thursday, June 30, the only hospital in Green Valley closed its doors for good.

Staff at the Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital discharged their last patient before noon.

Signs and caution tape now block the entrance to the visitor’s parking lot.

“I was surprised, shocked,” said Sue Markeson. “Everyone is shocked!”

Markeson, a Green Valley resident, said her mother received “great care” at the hospital during a medical emergency. She is devastated by the closure.

“Well yeah, [my mother] is still here,” Markeson said. “She is 82 years old.”

Santa Cruz Valley Regional, a 49-bed hospital, offered care to roughly 100,000 people along the Interstate 19 corridor.

The closest emergency rooms now are Northwest Medical Center Sahuarita, an 18-bed hospital, and Carondelet St. Mary’s Hospital. Both locations add a lot of travel time which could mean the difference between life and death.

“We had wonderful emergency physicians and highly-trained ER nurses who saw as many as 50 people a day,” said CEO Steve Harris. “The average age of our population is 72. So, it’s a population that really needs the medical support we were offering. I’m very worried. I live in Green Valley and I am also over 72.”

According to Harris, the hospital faced financial difficulties ever since it opened 2015. Its first owner filed for bankruptcy in 2018. It seems the new owner ran into similar issues.

“We put millions and millions of dollars into the business and were just unable to earn the trust or respect of the local residents because they kept going to Tucson,” Harris said. “We did a telemed study recently and it shows that only about 15% of the patients in our service area stay here for health care; 85% go to Tucson.”

Tucson Medical Center was poised to purchase Santa Cruz Regional, but backed out earlier this month.

“We’ve been working with them for months and simply ran out of runway,” Harris said.

Thursday afternoon, Tucson Medical Center released the following statement:

“After careful due diligence, the decision was made to not proceed with the acquisition of the hospital. We are working closely with management at Santa Cruz to identify appropriate placements for as many employees as possible. We continue to explore opportunities to provide needed medical services to the Green Valley community.”

KOLD News 13 spoke with an employee outside of Santa Cruz Valley Regional. That person didn’t want to be identified due to fear of retaliation, but claimed the nearly 300 hospital employees were “blindsided.” The employee said many staff members have been put in a “very bad position,” adding the closure is a “disaster for entire the community.”

“We issued them the required notification,” Harris said. “You have to give them 60 days’ notice.”

Harris said staff will be paid through mid-August, as long as they keep showing up to work.

“I read recently that there are 900 hospitals like ours across the country that are at risk of closing,” Harris said. “I think our message to the Governor and the legislature is, ‘we have a rural health care delivery crisis.’ Every rural hospital is struggling.”

Santa Cruz Valley Regional is for sale. Harris said even if someone buys the hospital tomorrow, it’s unlikely to reopen before next year.

Copyright 2022 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.