Phoenix Children's is developing with discipline, CEO says

Phoenix Children's is in touch with the needs of its community; and what the community needs, the health system is willing to break ground to deliver, according to President and CEO Bob Meyer.

Mr. Meyer has served at the helm of Phoenix Children's, Arizona's only pediatric health system, since November 2003.

Mr. Meyer told Becker's he's excited about various construction projects coming to fruition.

Phoenix Children's encompasses a comprehensive children's hospital, two hospital locations opening in 2023 and 2024, and more than 40 healthcare centers and clinics. 

In the East Valley, Phoenix Children's Hospital-East Valley, a five-story hospital, is slated to open in 2023 on the Mercy Gilbert Medical Center campus. Phoenix Children's has also opened specialty clinics and began offering primary care at seven Phoenix Children's Pediatrics locations in Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe. Later this year, Phoenix Children's will unveil a Women's and Children's Pavilion on Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center's campus, a joint effort with the San Francisco-based health system. 

In the West Valley, the population is projected to grow at twice the national rate by 2025, according to a Phoenix Children's fact sheet. Part of Phoenix Children's plans to accommodate this growth is building Phoenix Children's Hospital-Arrowhead Campus, a three-story pediatric hospital slated to open in Glendale in 2024. 

Additionally, the Phoenix Children's-Avondale Campus will feature an emergency department that is slated to open in 2023, and, on the Phoenix Children's Hospital-Thomas Campus, various projects are ongoing to create more clinical space, as well as office space for workers. Phoenix Children's currently has 1,600 nurses, 650 pediatric providers (physicians and advanced practice providers), more than 50 primary care providers at Phoenix Children's Pediatrics, and 200 residents and fellows, plus 1,177 more providers in the Phoenix Children's Care Network.

"We're building ambulatory buildings, accumulating land for future ambulatory buildings, things of that nature as well. But it's really meeting [community] needs," Mr. Meyer said. 

Mr. Meyer said Phoenix Children's has a plan to staff the projects, including a pediatric nursing program with Arizona State University. 

Through the program, "we will graduate 56 nurses this year. With that, we're trying to address the first-year turnover of new nurses in pediatrics," he said. 

The program has been so successful — raising pediatric nurse retention near 100 percent — that Phoenix Children's is expanding it to other colleges: Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona in Phoenix and Tucson. Turnover is so expensive that if these programs can double nurse retention rates, the savings will "easily" pay for the investment in staffing programs, according to Mr. Meyer. 

"We can build buildings all day long. If you can't staff them, you got robbed," Mr. Meyer said. "So we're very focused on the staffing component of it."

Despite razor-thin hospital margins nationwide, Phoenix Children's is weathering the storm with discipline, Mr. Meyer said. The system uses debt sparingly, and has a successful philanthropy arm. But much of their financial stability comes from firm decisions on which investments are worth the risk. 

"[If] you have that discipline, you can generate the dollars that you need," Mr. Meyer said. "It takes a lot of backbone to have the discipline, because everybody wants things."

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