Gilbert Hospital on Wednesday celebrated the coming of 16 more hospital beds that will more than triple its current inpatient services.
The hospital anticipates getting official certification from the Arizona Department of Health Services by this weekend, which would allow the hospital to begin accepting patients in its new wing Saturday.
Other patients coming to the emergency department will continue to be sent by helicopter to specialty hospitals if needed.
Town officials and hospital workers and their families praised the expansion, saying it will help patients who will have the option of completing care at Gilbert Hospital, which now predominantly transfers patients needing long-term care.
“They don’t have to be transferred to another facility,” said Deb Schmoldt, director of surgery. “You’re always better to stay with people familiar with your care.”
The hospital currently has six inpatient beds and 23 emergency room beds.
In the next month, the hospital plans to open three intensive care unit beds, and in February, ground will be broken on a 106-bed expansion expected to open February 2009.
Hospital founder and medical director Dr. Tim Johns said the hospital originally focused on emergency care, since it was the most dire need for Gilbert and Queen Creek at the time.
Firefighters also joined Wednesday’s celebration, saying they can get patients to hospitals far quicker with the continued growth of medical centers in Gilbert.
“We transport a lot more to local hospitals,” Gilbert fire Capt. Brett Laubhan said. “We used to go to Mesa a lot more.”
The additional beds will increase the total inpatient beds at the hospital to 22, allowing the hospital to overcome concerns by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over a low ratio of inpatient beds compared with emergency room beds.
“Sixteen beds isn’t an enormous number. It triples the amount we have currently,” hospital spokesman Drew Markell said. “But it does mean we can keep more patients here.”
The hospital at one point was restricted to using only six emergency room beds to match its current six inpatient beds, but those restrictions were later relaxed.
The hospital opened in February 2006 with a promise that patients would see a doctor within the first 31 minutes of coming in, a goal Markell said has been reached 98.9 percent of the time. The current average wait time before patients to see a doctor is 7.5 minutes, he said.