Herb Jaffe: Summerlin, Summerlin Hospital grow at roughly the same speed

You couldn’t find two more compatible partners traveling in the same direction than the master-planned community of Summerlin and Summerlin Hospital Medical Center.

As Summerlin goes, so goes the hospital. And there’s no one better qualified to confirm that than Robert Freymuller, who has served as Summerlin Hospital’s CEO for nine years.

Moreover, there’s no one better qualified to second the motion than Tom Warden, who has served as chairman of the hospital’s board of directors for 10 years. Warden also is senior vice president of community and government relations for Howard Hughes Corp., developer of Summerlin.

“The Summerlin Hospital project and Summerlin, as a community, are intrinsically woven together” was the way Warden put it. Freymuller was equally to the point: “Summerlin is still growing, and we are growing with it.”

What prompted this focus on the community-hospital partnership? Perhaps the most suitable word is “growth.” They are growing simultaneously, and for this to continue each relies to a considerable extent on the other’s needs.

Summerlin Hospital, on a 33.5-acre campus, will celebrate its 20th anniversary Oct. 16. It opened in 1997 with 148 beds. Today there are 454 beds. An additional 36 beds that will be added shortly will bring the total to 490.

But you can bet the powers that be at the hospital won’t stop there, which is why three years ago they purchased 7.2 acres of undeveloped property for future hospital expansion along Banburry Cross Drive.

Freymuller will be the first to admit that the hospital is doing its best to keep pace with the community’s needs. In fact, during one period within the past year the hospital was filled to 100 percent capacity, he said. Three factors are contributing heavily to that.

“Summerlin Hospital had 508 baby births in one month last year,” he said. That’s well above the norm, although consistent with the growing population of young families in Summerlin. “We delivered over 5,000 babies in 2016, which is why we’re enlarging our Birthplace,” Freymuller added.

In keeping with the uptick of births in Summerlin, renovations and expansion also are underway in the hospital’s pediatric unit.

A third factor relates to the numbers of seniors in Summerlin, largely due to two heavily populated retirement communities: Sun City and Sienna.

“Basically, we’re being driven by the continued growth of Summerlin, especially since the economic recovery,” Freymuller explained. He cited some home-construction figures to prove his point, such as eight residential neighborhoods that opened in Summerlin in 2015, five in 2016 and nine thus far in 2017.

“We feel that we’re meeting the kind of needs of a growing community, and of its growing demand for hospital services.

“We work closely with the people at Howard Hughes Corp. and we have access to their demographics,” Freymuller noted, adding, “They’re not finished, nor are we.” He pointed out that Hughes Corp. still has about 6,000 acres to develop within its master plan. All of Summerlin consists of approximately 25,000 acres.

Warden was equally emphatic. “The hospital’s growth and development are identical to that of Summerlin. In fact, the hospital’s logo is identical to the Howard Hughes Corp. logo, displaying the same lettering for the word Summerlin, with the mountain as a backdrop.

“The early planners of the hospital wanted this partnership with the community, in conformance with Summerlin’s master plan,” Warden explained. “The Hughes relationship with Summerlin Hospital speaks volumes of how the plan has come together.”

The hospital, a for-profit facility, is owned by Universal Health Services but is operated by Valley Health System.

“It’s Valley Health that we partner with,” Warden said, referring to the Hughes Corp.

“We have a great relationship,” he added proudly. “The hospital’s growth has been just as explosive as Summerlin’s growth.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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