Exceptional Community Hospital recognized for 20,000th patient

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(From left) Annie Giagni, nursing manager at Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa, and Annamarie Knorr, Exceptional's community outreach coordinator, receive a proclamation from Maricopa Mayor Nancy Smith on April 4 recognizing the hospital treating its 20,000th patient. [Lee Shappell]

Why would you go there? They’re small, so their care must not be good. Why waste your time?

Those negative comments are getting old, staffers at Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa acknowledge.

Julie Willoughby is Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa chief nursing officer and Bruce McVeigh (center) is chief operating officer. [Bryan Mordt]
You would go there, Exceptional Chief Nursing Officer Julie Willoughby said, to potentially save your life.

She said there are misconceptions around town about what the facility can and cannot do.

No. 1: It is not an urgent care.

“We are a full hospital with a 24/7 ER,” Willoughby said. “We see all types of patients, from low acuities like a sinus infection up to trauma. Our goal is to support the community and to fill a void in the community.”

Exceptional Community includes a specialty internal-medicine hospital, 24-hour emergency department, digital imaging suite – including CT scan, X-Ray, mobile MRI and ultrasound – in-house laboratory plus outpatient and inpatient hospital beds for acute admissions and overnight observation of patients.

It’s just that those offerings are within scale for the size of the community, so smaller than hospitals in the Valley.

Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa recently saw its 20,000th patient since opening in December, 2021. [InMaricopa file photo]
Since opening in December, 2021, as the city’s first hospital, Exceptional Community, 19060 N. John Wayne Pkwy., has treated 20,000 patients, a milestone recognized in a proclamation by Mayor Nancy Smith during the April 4 City Council meeting.

“Access to critical care within the city of Maricopa is vital to the health and well-being of our community, and proximity to 24-hour, health-care resources increases the likelihood of positive health outcomes,” Smith said in her proclamation. “Exceptional Community Hospital in Maricopa has treated over 20,000 patients since opening, providing quality, local, 24-hour health care and allowing our citizens to stay close to home when they are sick or injured and in need of immediate treatment.

“Countless lives have been saved due to the accessibility of critical care in our community.”

Smith went on to celebrate the impact of Exceptional on the health and safety of Maricopa residents.

Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa has been recognized for outstanding laboratory services for patients. [InMaricopa file photo]
Arizona law requires critical-condition patients to be transported to the nearest facility. Willoughby said when those patients are brought in to Exceptional, they are not treated by a substandard novice.

“There sometimes is concern that we are a smaller facility,” Willoughby said, “but ER nurses are ER nurses. All are trained to stabilize. People think because we are smaller we must have lower-skill personnel, and that is not true. We have only seasoned nurses.

“People may want us to be more than what we are. But if you have a family member who was severely injured in a car accident or had a heart attack, ask yourself: Do I want to delay treatment for 30 to 35 minutes in an ambulance ride to the Valley, or do I want to get them to a hospital in five minutes, get them treated and then, if necessary, transported? That’s what we do. We stabilize and treat or stabilize and transport.”

Exceptional, operated by Dallas-based Exceptional Healthcare, has a helipad. Willoughby points out that transport to a Valley hospital in a helicopter saves time over an ambulance ride, that the helicopter is staffed with a nurse where an ambulance is not, and that ambulances do not intubate patients.

“We have two ventilators here, and a respiratory therapist,” she said. “Depending on what it might be, we stabilize you and then get you to a specialty facility like Barrow Neurological Center or all the way to Mayo Clinic.”

All patients at Exceptional are triaged and assessed, so it is possible that someone with, say, a sinus infection, might have to wait while staff treats a trauma patient. That’s also true at larger hospitals in the Valley.

Dr. Lionel Lee is Exceptional Community Hospital-Maricopa’s medical director. [Lee Shappell]
Exceptional employs 110 people, the bulk of them from the city. The entire inpatient staff lives in Maricopa, Willoughby points out.

Soon, Exceptional will have competition, essentially right across the street. Work is under way on Maricopa’s second hospital that will anchor a 14.3-acre innovation medical campus.

“There’s room for both of us,” said Dr. Lionel Lee, medical director at Exceptional. “We are growing, too. We are actively bringing in specialists and continue to bring a higher level of care.

“It’s important to know we invest in this community. We know the people here. We care. We are not carpetbaggers.”