July 23, 2021

Health care challenges, border travel restrictions, tourism recovery

Plus, efforts to boost COVID vaccination rates in rural areas of southern Arizona

Intensive care units and emergency rooms aren’t seeing beds fill up at the rate they did during the height of the pandemic, but some nurses working those departments say they need relief. That was the message when unionized nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital demonstrated against staffing shortages that they said puts patients at risk. A statement from the hospital’s operator, Carondelet Health Network, said the facility has consistently met staffing guidelines in its collective bargaining agreement with the union.

The problem isn’t isolated to St. Mary’s. A spokesperson for Banner Health told Arizona 360 it has hundreds of open nursing positions and said vacancies are at an all-time high. We discussed staffing challenges and other issues facing hospitals Jim Hammond, publisher of the Hertel Report, which tracks the state’s health care industry.

Northwest Healthcare, which employs about 3,000 people and sees on average more than 800,000 patients a year, managed to grow its footprint in southern Arizona over the last year. It opened Northwest Medical Center Sahuarita late last year. Brian Sinotte, the company’s new market CEO, discussed lessons learned from the pandemic and how Northwest continues to grow amid challenges facing the industry.

Across Arizona, a number of groups are working to prevent another COVID-19 outbreak by getting people vaccinated. That’s especially true for rural areas where efforts involve getting shots in the arms of both Arizonans and Mexican residents. The University of Arizona Enid and Mel Zuckerman College of Public health is helping lead that charge in some counties through its mobile health units. The college’s associate dean, Dr. Cecilia Rosales, discussed the group’s approach and some of the challenges unique to the communities visited by the mobile health units.

Despite work to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates along the U.S. and Mexico border, pandemic-related restrictions that limit non-essential travel from Mexico will remain in effect at ports of entry through August 21. While retail dollars from Mexican shoppers are down, trade is thriving between the two nations. We got insight into why from international trade adviser Luis Ramirez. Ramirez also gave his take on the likelihood restrictions will finally lift next month.

After the pandemic led to a nearly 50% drop in tourism-related revenue in Arizona last year, the situation has shown signs of improvement. That includes a recent announcement from Gov. Ducey that his office would direct more than $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds to create the Visit Arizona Initiative that, in part, will focus on marketing the state’s attractions to the rest of the world. Tony Paniagua visited two museums in Tucson and spoke to those connected to the industry about their hopes that tourism will continue to recover.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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