Banner Health’s newest East Valley hospital already has hundreds of employees to fill its hallways, even though it won’t open for months.
That’s because some 700 employees from Banner Mesa Medical Center, scheduled to close this year, will make the transition to the new Banner Gateway Medical Center at Higley Road and U.S. 60.
The company is fortunate to already have a tremendous number of qualified people for Gateway, spokesman Bill Byron said.
“Whether opening a new hospital or running one around 20 or 30 years old, staff is always a challenge because there’s a shortage,” he said.
As the health care industry scrambles to keep pace with the Valley’s exploding population, industry observers say there is a shortage of nurses and other qualified medical professionals.
Nursing schools have limited space and massive waiting lists, said Lee McPheters, senior associate dean at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
With the population booming, baby boomers aging and average incomes increasing, health care will continue to grow and have a huge impact on Arizona’s economy, McPheters said.
From 1990 to 2005, Arizona hospital employment jumped 46 percent, compared with a 24 percent rise nationwide, a study by the school shows.
Arizona will need thousands of more nurses in the coming decade, said McPheters, one of the study’s authors.
Nearly 2,900 new hospital beds are expected to open statewide by 2011.
“The Valley as a whole has a lot of catching up to do,” Scottsdale Healthcare spokesman Keith Jones said.
The Scottsdale company will open its third hospital, Thompson Peak, this year with around 300 employees to start. People throughout the Valley have shown interest in working at the hospital, Jones said.
IASIS Healthcare, which will open Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa in 2007, is also seeing interest from East Valley workers, said Mountain Vista CEO Kelly Adams.
“The location is lending itself to a lot of nursing and health care employees that have been driving to downtown Phoenix and elsewhere,” Adams said.
Demand for qualified health care staff will be here for a long time, said Judy Seiler, manager of training and development at Scottsdale Healthcare. Seiler is focused on both keeping employees and helping foster future workers for the company.
Scottsdale Healthcare offers tuition assistance to its employees and has a partnership with the Maricopa County Community College District.
“In Arizona, we don’t have enough seats in the classroom to begin with,” Seiler said.
Seiler recently expanded a classroom on the Scottsdale Healthcare campus, which is used by college instructors and now fits 60 students.
Industry observers say Arizona — which has surpassed Nevada as the fastest growing state — will continue playing catch up as its population climbs.
With new hospitals coming online, there may be periods where it seems like there are too many beds, but that will be temporary because of the Valley’s growth, Banner’s Byron said.
“How do we know when we’ve caught up?” he said. “We’re just so significantly behind, I don’t believe catching up will happen anytime soon.”