Proximity to health care still important to Sun City, Siena residents

Once upon a time, sales agents eager to sell new homes at senior communities such as Sun City Summerlin and Siena at Summerlin cajoled prospective buyers with promises that appropriate health care facilities for the Summerlin area were in the offing.

That was important to most senior citizens, who, for no other reason than by virtue of their age, have always viewed close proximity to adequate health care facilities as one of their priorities, especially when looking to move into a new community.

Of course, that’s not to say the vast majority of seniors weren’t thinking about the "golden years" amenities that were being offered by the lush retirement communities or for a good many others who chose to reside in luxurious neighborhoods elsewhere in Summerlin. After all, uppermost in their minds were the golf courses, tennis courts, jogging tracks, community center card games, ad infinitum among the paramount considerations for so many of the newly retired.

Still, it has always been gratifying for senior citizens to know that suitable health care facilities were nearby.

Coincidentally, the first waves of seniors came to Summerlin in the mid- to late 1990s, at a time when MountainView Hospital and Summerlin Hospital Medical Center were either in their planning stages or their infancy. Of course Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Station No. 107, which opened last month in Sun City with appropriate emergency health care personnel and facilities, was not even a consideration then.

Persons 55 or older came by the hordes to buy the nearly 10,000 homes in Sun City and Siena. They claimed them almost as fast as they could be built. Others preferred houses elsewhere in the community. The result is that senior citizens now comprise an estimated 25 percent of Summerlin’s population.

And that wasn’t lost in the minds of hospital planners and other providers of health care.

"About 60 percent of our patient population consists of persons 65 and older," said Amanda Powell, a spokeswoman for MountainView Hospital, 3100 N. Tenaya Way, which sits just beyond the edge of Summerlin.

"In fact, we’re one of only two facilities in Nevada that has a NICHE designation," Powell added.

The other hospital is in Reno. NICHE refers to Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders.

"It means that we have a strong interest in providing geriatric sensitivity training for our nurses," Powell said. "In fact, a good many of the hospital’s facilities are catered to seniors, right down to the lighting in rooms and even the TVs."

MountainView received the prestigious NICHE designation this year. At the time, Will Wagnon, the hospital’s CEO, said, "This designation exemplifies our commitment to the community we serve. As our population continues to age, it is vital that we fully understand the unique needs of the 65-plus patient."

MountainView, which is part of a chain of four facilities in Southern Nevada known as Sunrise Health hospitals, is presently undergoing an expansion program in excess of $60 million. Construction began last summer and is expected to be completed by the end of this year, Powell said.

"We’re adding onto two floors, and we’re more than doubling the size of our emergency room, among other things," she said.

The emergency room will include a 12-bed intensive care unit.

Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, 657 N. Town Center Drive, was built about the same time as MountainView. It, too, underwent a major expansion that was recently completed, at a cost of almost $100 million. Included in the construction is a new tower with an additional 174 beds, bringing the total to 454. The emergency room now has 48 beds, up from 21.

"We’re not targeted to any age group in particular, although we do see a large population of senior citizens," said hospital spokeswoman Lori Harris.

Although Harris could not pinpoint the percentage of senior patients who use the facility, one reason for the large senior population is the hospital’s close proximity to Sun City.

"We have a wide variety of programs at the hospital that are geared to treating senior citizens," she said. "Among other things, we have a large and very complete cardiac unit, as well as extensive facilities for cancer treatment and even robotic surgery."

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at

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