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Nurse Willoughby to the Rescue!

Rep. channels her nursing background, helps expand care to smaller communities

By Steve Kirwan, October 5, 2023 2:43 pm

State Rep. Julie Willoughby (R-13) – Christian, wife, mother, Republican, emergency room trauma nurse. (photo: juliewilloughby.org)

Arizona State Representative Julie Willoughby (R-13) channeled her nursing experience to champion the expansion of the Arizona Resource Equity & Access Coordination Hub (AZ REACH), a program enhancing healthcare accessibility for patients who traditionally need advocacy on finding appropriate care facilities post-hospital stay.

Once receiving initial hospital care, these patients often need continuing acute in-facility health care but cannot arrange it. AZ REACH, an all-volunteer program, assists the initiating facility in finding appropriate placement and arranging transport. Unfortunately, funding the program’s operations is a challenge.

Rep. Willoughby is leading the charge to expand the program by securing funding for expanding the program to include smaller rural hospitals. The expansion program dubbed the Arizona Statewide Transfer Escalation Pathway (AZ STEP), adds five small hospitals with 20 beds or less to the existing group of 25 larger hospitals.

In a press release yesterday, Ms. Willoughby stated, “As a nurse, I know that the AZ REACH program helps save practitioners time and patients’ lives.” She continued, “With the introduction of AZ STEP, we are taking a monumental step towards improving patient care, throughput, and access to specialty services, particularly in our smaller rural hospitals.

During peak times, it’s imperative that clinical staff can focus on patients’ needs without being burdened by transfer logistics. AZ STEP will bridge this gap further, ensuring patients receive the care they require.”

Since its inception in 2022, AZ REACH has helped more than 4,000 patients find continuing care, boasting a 90 percent acceptance rate.


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