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El Rio Clinics close Friday for nurse’s funeral

Citizen Staff Writer



All 15 of El Rio Community Health Center clinics will be closed Friday afternoon so workers can attend the funeral of longtime employee Mercedes Sumner, who collapsed and died Feb. 13.

Sumner, called Mercy by her friends, had been a nurse in southern Arizona for more than 40 years. She was 70 when she died.

“We have an individual that has touched the hearts of many,” said Dr. Arthur Martinez, El Rio’s chief medical officer. “Many of our staff will want to be at services. It was too difficult to pick and choose. . . . We just wanted to allow everybody the opportunity to attend (the funeral).”

Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at St. Francis de Sales Parish, 1375 S. Camino Seco.

El Rio spokeswoman Jill Rodriguez said Sumner was raised in Sonoita on a cattle ranch. After high school she received a registered nursing degree from St. Mary’s School of Nursing in Tucson, which closed in 1966.

She worked at St. Mary’s Hospital for a short time and then worked at Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee. She was an instructor at Cochise College in the late 1960s.

Sumner returned to Tucson to work at Tucson Medical Center, where she spent 22 years. She left TMC to work at El Rio, where she had been for the past 14 years.

Rodriguez said Sumner began to experience pain in her legs five weeks before her death. Martinez said she had been moved to a position where she was writing policies and procedures, which enabled her to sit more frequently.

However, on Feb. 13 she collapsed while working and was unresponsive. She was taken to a local hospital, where she died of a pulmonary embolism.

“It’s been very sad,” Martinez said. “It was unexpected and as a result it was quite traumatic.”

He said counselors have been brought in to help staff members.

To close the clinics, Martinez said some appointments had to be rescheduled and signs have been placed on all doors to let patients know of the closure.

Martinez said closing the clinics for a funeral is an unusual act for El Rio. But because Sumner had supervised and been a mentor for most of the nurses and has worked with many of the doctors, it was important to let everyone attend her funeral.


Memorial services for Mercy Sumner will be at St. Francis de Sales Parish, 1375 S. Camino Seco, at 2 p.m. Friday.

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