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Population Growth Continues to Strain Phoenix Health System Capacity

Capacity Strained Despite Recent Hospital Expansion Efforts

News Release
Sept. 15, 2005

Alwyn Cassil (202) 264-3484 or

WASHINGTON, DC—A population boom in Phoenix continues to strain the health system, despite significant recent hospital expansions, according to a new Community Report released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

Coupled with insufficient emergency department and inpatient capacity, the rapid population growth-fueled by an unabated influx of job seekers, retirees and undocumented immigrants-contributes to frequent ambulance diversions and treatment delays in Phoenix hospitals. Emergency medical technicians reportedly wait as long as three hours to drop off patients at downtown hospitals, and waiting times at emergency departments throughout Phoenix average six hours.

"Securing on-call coverage for emergency department cases by specialty physicians also has become a greater challenge for hospitals over the past two years," said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., president of HSC, a nonpartisan policy research organization funded principally by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Some hospitals are employing physicians to provide coverage while others are paying members of the medical staff to take call."

Other key findings of the report, Rapid Population Growth Outpaces Phoenix Health System Capacity, which is available online, include:

  • Treatment and diagnostic services are shifting from full-service hospitals to freestanding facilities and physician offices, often in response to physician efforts to add facility payments to compensation for professional services.
  • Large national employers are launching a pilot pay-for-performance program that involves cooperation among competing health plans.
  • New and expanded state and local programs are targeting coverage and care gaps for uninsured people.

Phoenix is one of 12 communities across the country tracked intensively by HSC researchers through site visits. The new report is based on an April 2005 site visit and interviews with more than 75 Phoenix health care leaders, representing health plans, employers, hospitals, physicians and policy makers.

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The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.



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The Center for Studying Health System Change Ceased operation on Dec. 31, 2013.