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What do AZ hospital CEOs say about COVID-19 response?

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-24 23:11:18-04

The vast majority of Arizona hospital beds are in facilities run by Banner Health, Dignity Health, HonorHealth, and Abrazo Health.

The preparedness of these medical groups could impact the quality of care you or a loved one will receive during the coronavirus pandemic.

This led ABC15 to ask to speak to their top administrators in Arizona Wednesday. We requested interviews with Banner Health CEO Peter Fine, Dignity Health's regional president for Arizona Linda Hunt, HonorHealth CEO Todd Laporte, and Abrazo Health CEO Brian Elisco.

However, all hospitals denied ABC15's interview request, and no alternative spokesperson was offered.

A Banner Health Representative explained in an email that the availability of their leaders is limited, as they actively address the pandemic. However, their public relations department plans to record a question-and-answer session Thursday with Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Banner's Chief Clinical Officer. A spokesperson also said that video would be made public by Friday, June 26. Dr. Bessel did speak with reporters about her hospital capacity concerns in early June. That prompted national media attention on the surge of COVID-19 cases in Arizona.

However, just days after Dr. Bessel spoke, several major hospital groups and Gov. Doug Ducey released statements to the public to try to quell fears about exceeding hospital capacity.

Arizona's hospitals are some of the state's largest employers. Banner Health is based in Arizona and has medical facilities in several other states. Banner's CEO Peter Fine made $25.5 million in total compensation, according to a 2017 IRS filing for the nonprofit company.

HonorHealth is a nonprofit based in the Valley. Its CEO, Todd LaPorte, made $1.1 million in total compensation, according to a 2018 IRS filing.

Dignity Health is based in California. CEO Lloyd Dean made $13.4 million, according to a 2017 IRS filing. Top Arizona administrator, Linda Hunt, made $1.8 million.

Abrazo Health is a subsidiary of Tenet Healthcare Corp., a publicly traded company from Dallas, Texas. Tenet's CEO Ron Rittenmeyer made $24.3 million in total compensation, according to Tenet's most recent SEC filing.

Here's what hospitals are saying about current capacity.

Dignity Health:

Plans are in place and constantly assessed to ensure that we rapidly respond to the specific needs of our patient population Our hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of overall patients currently receiving treatment at our facilities. To prepare for a potential surge, the following plans are underway at our hospitals to ensure adequate staffing levels and capacity to care for a larger number of patients.

· Staffing

We have waves of nurse travelers and respiratory therapists joining our team each week throughout July.

CommonSpirit Health, of which Dignity Health is a member, is creating a new internal travel nurse program. Nurses from our sister hospitals in low-census divisions are being recruited to support the Arizona team as needed.

We’re training and redeploying staff members from low-census areas to high-census units and assessing all non-clinical roles to identify staff members who can provide needed non-clinical assistance.

· Capacity

St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center is transitioning a number of regular care beds to create more COVID-19 cohort capacity. The hospital has also converted a number of private patient rooms to semi-private rooms to prepare for and effectively treat a larger number of patients.

On Saturday, June 27, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and St. Joseph’s Westgate Medical Center will temporarily return to a tiered approach for surgeries and procedures. This includes temporarily modulating surgeries between Saturday, June 27 and Monday, July 6. During this time period, we will perform emergent and urgent surgeries and procedures. Elective cases that are currently on the schedule will proceed, however we will not be scheduling additional elective cases to take place that week. This will allow us to continue to prepare the hospitals for additional surge capacity and give us additional time to support and increase our staffing. Our Dignity Health hospitals in the East Valley are carefully monitoring scheduled surgical cases on a daily basis and are adapting as needed.

As with the other health care systems, we are part of the Arizona Surge Line, which facilitates interfacility patient transfers during a hospital emergency or surge. The surge line helps to provide patients with excellent medical care and efficiently utilize bed space across all facilities.

· Ventilators

We currently have enough ventilators to care for patients. Additional ventilators are available throughout Dignity Health and CommonSpirit Health in the event that we need to utilize additional ventilators.

The safety of our patients, staff and community remains our highest priority and we are committed to meeting the needs of our community. To prevent further community spread of COVID-19, we strongly encourage community members to continue following infection control protocols, which include masking, hand hygiene and social distancing.

Abrazo Health:

Abrazo hospitals continue to have capacity to provide care for COVID and non-COVID patients. Capacity in all units and elective procedures are closely monitored, and we are ready to adjust our services and processes as necessary in the event of a surge in COVID patients. Abrazo hospitals’ COVID Safety precautions include screening, masking, social distancing and separate pathways for COVID and non-COVID patients. We want to remind everyone about the importance of preventive care and seeking care in an emergency.


HonorHealth has been planning for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases since January and we have plans in place to care for the increase in patients. Every day, we monitor our bed capacity, equipment, staffing, PPE, and other measures, within our health system to ensure we can safely treat any suspected COVID-19 patients, and all other patients who walk through our doors.