Mark Medina, MD, chief medical officer at Valley Medical Care, will leave the hospital this month to start a new position at the University of Arizona.
The news comes as the hospital struggles to deal with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“I think what you’re seeing is we are really starting to see the first signs of this in the hospitals we treat, the first cases of this,” Medina said in an interview with The Arizona Republic.
“We’ve seen it at other hospitals, but we’ve never seen it in Valley.
I think we are now in a place where we’re starting to really see a really real threat to the public health.”
Medina was appointed chief medical office for the University Hospital of Arizona in 2016.
The hospital is one of only a handful of Arizona hospitals that have treated patients infected with the highly resistant strain of Escherichia coli.
In addition to the rise in infections, Valley has seen a rise in the number of patients with symptoms of the infection, which includes diarrhea, fever and headache.
In 2016, there were 7,854 new infections, according to state data.
As of Monday, Valley was still dealing with a higher number of cases than it had in 2015.
“What’s important for us is we’re still able to take care of the people we’re treating, we’re able to manage the infections,” Medina told The Republic.
He said Valley is working on a plan to close the hospital down completely by 2019.
“There are some of the key issues that we need to solve, but at this point we’ve seen the signs of a really serious threat to our public health,” he said.
“So I think at the end of the day, this is the best time for us to focus on the patient care.”
Medina’s departure comes as Valley faces a new crisis as the outbreak of antibiotic resistance sweeps across the United States.
It’s unclear whether the rise will impact Valley’s ability to treat patients who were previously healthy.
“It’s not clear yet how the numbers will affect us,” Medina noted.
“For the most part, the hospitals have been able to sustain themselves in this scenario.”
In the meantime, Valley Medical has hired another medical director, who is on staff at the Arizona Medical Center.
He has been there for about six months.
“Mark has been an integral part of the Valley Medical team for more than 10 years and we’re looking forward to working with him to continue to build a new chapter in Valley’s history,” Valley Medical President Scott Haines said in a statement.
“The Valley Medical community is excited to welcome Mark into the Valley family.”
Medina and Hainis both stressed that the situation will not impact Valley Medical’s ability or ability to take on the growing demand for health care at the state’s largest hospital.
“In no way is this a reflection of Valley’s health and well-being,” Hainess said.