Nogales is a small city, with a population of 21,785. Nearby unincorporated Rio Rico, with about 16,000 residents, is a few miles north. Santa Cruz County’s population is estimated at 45,245 and includes rural communities such as Tubac, Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin. Incorporated on July 21, 1893, Nogales is located next to the identically named city of Nogales in the state of Sonora, Mexico. The area has been known as Ambos Nogales (or both Nogales) ever since that time and a strong flavor of Latin America spices the community on the U.S. side.
In Nogales, Arizona, sales tax paid by shoppers from Mexico maintains a healthy economy for this small city. Nogales, Sonora, Mexico has a population of approximately 400,000, and many of its residents enter the U.S. legally every day to work, shop or travel north to Tucson or Phoenix. Alternately, U.S. residents enjoy heading south for shopping, restaurants, nightclubs and music. Duty-free shops a half-block north of the border add another shopping dimension with liquor, cigarettes, perfume and other items.
Because the majority of residents are bilingual, the English-only speaker has no difficulty anywhere in the community. Hippenmayer says language hasn’t been a barrier in her work. Even though she arrived in June 2007 with some ability to speak Spanish, she‘s found it could take years to have more confidence. “I think I speak Spanish, and then I hang out with the nurses here and I understand I really don’t speak Spanish at all,” she laughs. “Every day I learn something new, which is kind of fun.
“The physicians who don’t speak Spanish don’t have any problem because we have translators and the staff. There’s always someone available, trained to translate,” she says.
New facility, great opportunities
Hippenmayer’s employer, the 45-year-old Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital with 25 acute care beds, located just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, is scheduled to be replaced in the near future. The new facility will be built on land close to the retail center of the city, near stores such as Super Wal-Mart and Home Depot and a nine-screen movie theater. Groundbreaking is anticipated near the end of 2008, says Richard Polheber, the hospital’s chief executive officer. In the mean time, Carondelet is looking for the right person to fill its new hospitalist position, adding to the staff of 62 active and provisional physicians, 19 credentialed allied health professionals, 240 associates/employees, and 40 volunteers. The hospital currently offers a 24-hour emergency room, birthing services, diagnostic imaging services, laboratory, outpatient surgery and testing, rehabilitation, surgical services and women’s surgical services.
Dina Sanchez, assistant administrator, says, “We’ve started strong recruitment efforts. We’re finding it’s becoming more of a challenge for our local physicians to get away from their clinics, to get away from their family life, to treat patients in a hospital.
“We found that we were starting to see a trend of patients being sent to Tucson, so the management of patients could take place over there. In order to help with that situation, that’s how the hospitalist situation came about,” Sanchez says.
Next door to the hospital at Carondelet Medical Group are the offices of three physicians and two family nurse practitioners. Many specialists from Tucson also visit on a regular schedule. Practice manager Mary Beth Klatt says she has been working for several months to fill a physician vacancy for a fourth physician.
With three locations, Mariposa Community Health Center is the largest primary health care provider on the Arizona/Mexico border. The staff includes 13 physicians and three nurse practitioners. Eladio Pereira, MD, medical director at Nogales’ Mariposa Community Health Center, says he has a vacancy at least once every year. The health center operates from two large side-by-side buildings in Nogales on Mariposa Road and opened a clinic in Rio Rico in September 2006, while the Patagonia Family Health Center, operated by the Mariposa Center, has been aiding residents of the rural east county area for many years.