Situated in idyllic locations with sparkling swimming pools and landscaped jogging paths, some psychiatric hospital campuses that flourished in the 1980s could have doubled as vacation resorts.
Now, one high-profile hospital, Sierra Tucson, is moving in that direction.
In 1990, MODERN HEALTHCARE reported on Sierra Tucson, a Tucson, Ariz.-based company whose addiction treatment programs were attracting such well-known patients as actor Rob Lowe and musician Ringo Starr (June 25, 1990, p. 49). The company's balance sheet was strong when it went public in 1989. After all, the 178-bed hospital, nestled on a 325-acre campus near the Santa Catalina Mountains, attracted only private patients who paid full charges.
However, like many of its fellow providers, Sierra Tucson saw that charge-based chapter of the behavioral healthcare business come to an end.
"Clearly, the insurance industry has put a significant damper on our ability to grow," said Bruce Martin, the company's vice president of marketing. "As a publicly traded company, we have a responsibility to shareholders to grow."
Enter "Miraval," billed as a "life-in-balance vacation alternative." Sierra Tucson will keep a 70-bed inpatient unit, but it is converting its other patient buildings on campus to 100 resort rooms for vacationers.
Beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, Miraval will offer an all-inclusive vacation that will include meals, recreational activities such as tennis and mountain-biking, meditation, yoga and instruction in stress management. Guests, who will pay between $300 and $400 a day, will be able to "rediscover themselves, adding renewed purpose to life," the company says.
The vacation part of the campus will be completely separate from the inpatient hospital part, Martin stressed. At the hospital, patients pay $640 a day.
The idea already has a track record. Canyon Ranch, an exclusive spa also in Tucson, caters to high-end vacationers with nutrition and fitness programs.
Perhaps the move will buoy Sierra Tucson's stock price. The stock, which was trading in the $20s in the early 1990s, has been in the $3 and $4 range during the past year in over-the-counter trading.