Mesa General set for bigger role - East Valley Tribune: Business

Mesa General set for bigger role

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Posted: Saturday, March 18, 2006 5:38 am | Updated: 2:35 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Banner Mesa Medical Center’s closure in fall 2007 isn’t going to leave west Mesa without a full-service hospital.

Mesa General Hospital, a 126-bed facility on Mesa Drive just north of University Drive, not only isn’t going anywhere, but also has plans to expand its presence in west Mesa, said Brent Cope, the hospital’s chief executive officer.

Expansion plans could include either adding to the existing campus or building an all-new, larger hospital at another location to be determined.

“It is more expensive to deal with the buildings of this generation than flat-out building a new one,” Cope said. “The question is, what’s your best alternative, and we have to figure out what our best alternative is for servicing this part of Mesa.”

Whatever expansion plan is selected, it won’t be completed until after Banner Mesa, the other hospital, closes, he said.

“I think (Banner Mesa closing) will have a significant impact,” Cope said. “We fully expect that the ambulance runs will increase. The need in the community is still going to be there. I think capacity is probably our biggest challenge.”

Mesa General is owned by Tennessee-based IASIS Healthcare Corp. It owns and operates 14 general, acute-care hospitals, one behavioral hospital and three ambulatory surgery centers in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

Locally, it also owns Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, and St. Luke’s Medical Center and St. Luke’s Behavioral Hospital in Phoenix.

A new IASIS hospital, Mountain Vista Medical Center, is under construction at Southern Avenue and Crismon Road in east Mesa. The 172-bed hospital is scheduled to open in spring 2007, said Tomi Galin, IASIS spokeswoman.

Mesa General Hospital opened in 1965. At the time, it was predominantly an osteopathic hospital with a teaching program, so it treated patients and produced doctors for the community, Cope said.

“It went through a number of ownership changes, and now IASIS has owned it for six years,” he said. “About three to four years ago, the hospital started to go through some significant changes. The residency programs are pretty much gone, and there was kind of a shift in direction with the facility.”

Mesa General’s three primary specialties are cardiac care, obstetrics, especially deliveries, and acute rehabilitation. IASIS has put a lot of money into the hospital and invested in new technology such as the da Vinci robot, which is used in open heart surgeries, Cope said.

The age and size of Mesa General present some challenges, such as how to increase the hospital’s capacity to treat more acute patients, Cope said.

“The emergency room needs to grow larger in size as do the other intensive care type units,” he said. “Those are probably the biggest challenges, as well as getting enough nurses to work in all areas of the hospital. If we had more room in the intensive care unit, then we could certainly handle more patients. That’s probably our biggest bottleneck at this point.”

The hospital already is busy, with its intensive care unit running at 90 percent to 95 percent capacity at all times, Cope said. The telemetry unit, which is a step down from ICU, also runs at 90 percent to 95 percent at all times, he said.

Mesa General does pride itself on keeping patients moving in its emergency room.

“The average door to discharge is about three hours and 20 minutes,” Cope said. “In our emergency department you see a physician in less than an hour on average, and I’ve seen days when the average turnaround time is two hours in and out the door again. During the winter — the end of December and the early part of January — we were very much overloaded, like everyone else was, and at full capacity.”

IASIS is now mulling over its options for expanding Mesa General, and how to finance whatever expansion plan is selected, he said.

“We sit on a pretty tight piece of land right now, so we’ll have to figure that one out,” he said. “Land is a scarce commodity, and hospitals don’t go on small parcels. If we were expanding something different or different in nature, sometimes you can split up your services and put them on different pieces. But a hospital usually needs 20 acres or more of a collective piece of land. You can’t take your ICU and put in on one block and your emergency department on another block.”

For the most part, Mesa General is a one-story building, and it was not designed to accommodate additional floors, Cope said.

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