Population growth and healthcare: What are Northern Nevada hospitals doing to manage?
NNMC’s new hospital — region’s first in 100 years — just one tactic to handle major increase in healthcare demand
Special to the NNBV
RENO, Nev. — As the population of Reno-Sparks continues to expand, it places even more strain on regional healthcare providers and organizations — but relief is on the way.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 465,000 people residing in Washoe County in 2018. That’s up 10 percent from 2010, with a projected 25 percent increase through 2035. Those additional residents likely will strain existing regional healthcare services beyond capacity.
However, a new hospital campus slated for the corners of Longley Lane and Double R Boulevard will go a long way toward alleviating the pressure brought on by the region’s burgeoning growth.
Northern Nevada’s Medical Center’s Sierra Medical Campus will be the first full-service hospital built in the region in the past 100 years, says Alan Olive, Northern Nevada Medical Center’s chief executive officer.
“We saw the growth,” Olive says. “We had a lot of providers coming to us as an organization to help address the growth and needs. But even with these amazing things we are about to do, we had to focus on (providing) care today. We knew we could not bring up the new hospital fast enough to address need.”
Providing timely care and access
To that end NNMC expanded services at its Prater Way location, adding 16 additional private beds, increasing surgical capacity and adding key high-tech surgical services.
NNMC expects to break ground on Sierra Medical Center this October, and the hospital is expected to open within three years of groundbreaking. All beds at the facility will be private.
Sierra Medical Center will address many of the key needs of the community, Olive says. NNMC also is building a freestanding 24-hour emergency room facility at the corners of Mae Anne Avenue and McCarran Boulevard that should come online in the third quarter of 2020. The facility will have eight patient rooms.
“The focus of that facility is to provide timeliness of care and access,” Olive says. “It is a full-service ER that has board-certified physicians, trained nursing, imaging and laboratory services, as well as a pharmacy. We will be able to treat virtually anything that comes through the door.
“It will be very positive for our community to address some of the overcrowding in the other ERs,” he adds.
SR Construction is NNMC’s construction partner on the emergency room and hospital projects. NNMC also owns all the land surrounding its flagship campus in east Sparks, which provides the organization with enough physical space to accommodate as much as 30 to 50 years of additional growth, Olive says.
Expanding outpatient services
While Saint Mary’s Health Network doesn’t plan on expanding its physical footprint, the hospital still is diligently preparing to meet the growing needs of the community, says Chief Executive Officer Helen Lidholm. Not only does the region require increased access to healthcare, the types of services the community requires are changing as well, she says.
More and more patients these days seek care through urgent care facilities and walk-in clinics rather than at main hospitals, Lidholm notes, primarily because of lower costs and increased convenience.
“The population is increasingly seeking out lower acuity sites of care,” she says. “These types of services are lower in cost to the patient and faster and easier to maneuver through. (Patients) are avoiding higher cost and higher acuity services such as hospitals and emergency rooms.
“To meet this trend, Saint Mary’s is focused on expanding our outpatient services without expanding our physical footprint. We’re planning to increase the number of providers, which will increase access to primary and urgent care offices. We’re expanding our chronic care management programs to help ease the frequent visits of our more vulnerable patients, and we’re also focused on expanding our wellness services to ensure our community gets and stays healthy.”
Meeting the increasing demand
Ty Windfeldt, chief operations officer with Renown’s health services division, says that as communities expand across the Truckee Meadows and surrounding valleys, so too will Renown’s physical footprint.
Renown’s immediate three- to five-year roadmap includes comprehensively understanding current market needs and responding to forthcoming changes so the organization is prepared to meet future demand, Winfeldt says.
“It is a significant concern for Renown,” Winfeldt says. “Our mission is to meet the healthcare needs of the community, and we already are in an environment where we don’t have capacity in several areas.
“As the population grows, we are continuously looking at how we can affect change,” he adds. “Not only do we have the population booming, but we also have a workforce on the physician side that’s aging and nearing retirement. Demand is continually increasing, supply is decreasing, and nobody wants to wait to get an appointment.”
To alleviate demand, Renown seeks to backfill key hiring opportunities and increase its facilities as needed, Winfeldt adds. While maintenance and improvements are nearly constant at the main medical facility, the organization also will expand its community care clinics as necessary.
“Over the next several years Renown will continue to grow from a facilities perspective,” Winfeldt says. “It’s incumbent upon us to make sure we have the right structure in place to deliver healthcare. Our model at Renown is to make we sure put primary care physicians as close to your home as they can be — we want to be in and of the community.”
The ultimate goal, Winfeldt adds, is moving patients away from a healthcare environment and into a comprehensive integrated health system that improves outcomes and quality.
“You will continue to see Renown evolve in that space,” he says. “It is a very large picture, but we believe that we can remove some of the health spend today and use in much better manner. We have embarked upon a new strategic plan, and it is really enlightening. The work we are doing here will have significant impact on community long term.”
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