Northwest Mesa will lose its only remaining hospital when Mesa General Hospital closes its doors in May after 43 years.
Parent company Iasis Healthcare announced Tuesday that it has not renewed lease agreements on the building that houses Mesa General. The hospital is known for its cardiology and cardiovascular surgery programs, and faster emergency room service.
The lease will expire on July 31, but the hospital will close May 31.
The property is owned by Sierra Land Group Inc. The company couldn't be reached for comment.
The 126-bed hospital opened in 1965 and includes about 380 employees. It is on Mesa Drive north of University Drive.
"I think a lot of people were probably born there that are longtime Mesa residents, so it will be missed," said Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker. "If you do geographic circles from that hospital, it certainly did serve the center of Mesa. So it will be missed from a service standpoint and an emergency room standpoint."
Iasis is closing Mesa General because it cannot make capital improvements to a leased facility, said Audrianne Schneider, Iasis regional marketing director.
"We cannot make the capital investments here like we do at our other hospitals to equip it with state-of-the-art technology," she said. "It's similar to when you rent an apartment. You can't make additions or make any improvements unless the landlord says you can. To do the things we want to do, it's just not possible, being that it is leased. So the difficult decision was made to not renew that lease."
Patients who remain hospitalized on May 31 will either be discharged if appropriate or transferred to other hospitals for continuing care, Schneider said. Before the closing, maternity services will be shifted to two other Iasis hospitals, Tempe St. Luke's Hospital and Mountain Vista Medical Center in east Mesa.
There are no plans to close the Women's Care Center Clinic, which provides free pregnancy testing and prenatal care, in the medical office building south of Mesa General, she said.
"We want as minimal disruption to services as possible, so we are winding down with communication to our employees," Schneider said. "The emergency room will be open until May 31, and then after that date we'll be transitioning, as you would any other tenant moving out, with our equipment and those types of things."
Mesa General's OB/GYN patients will be served by either Tempe St. Luke's or Mountain Vista Medical Center, she said.
Cardiology and cardiovascular surgery services will be handled by Mountain Vista, she said.
"We have an excellent heart program at Mountain Vista," Schneider said. "We opened with the best technology, so ... the whole spectrum of cardiac services is available there."
The hospital's employees were notified Tuesday that there will be opportunities to transfer to other Iasis facilities in the state. Most of the employees, including nurses and other clinical personnel, will be offered positions at other Iasis facilities, she said.
"We have a lot of long-term employees, and we want to do our best to keep them," Schneider said.
Mesa General has already mapped a route to Tempe St. Luke's, the nearest Iasis hospital, for OB/GYN patients, she said.
"The message is we can take care of our community," Schneider said. "We've really tried to communicate very extensively to those audiences who are affected by this and offer them options that are available."
In the meantime, Mesa General is still accepting patients, she said.
Charlie Deaton, president and CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce, was surprised to hear about Mesa General's closing and said it's uncomfortable anytime a venerable hospital closes.
Banner Mesa Medical Center, the only other hospital in northwest Mesa, closed last fall.
"But we've also had some new facilities built," he said. "So as far as the public is concerned, there's still plenty of opportunities for strong health care."
That northwest Mesa will soon be without a hospital is a concern, Hawker said.
"We need places that we can transport people to when we have 911 calls," he said. "Hospitals have always been an integral link with our paramedic service, so yes, it will have an impact."