Mesa leaders are on the verge of saving a downtown-area hospital that was the second in the vicinity to close last year — leaving northwest city residents with few area emergency services.
A bill passed by the Legislature and aimed at reopening the facility that was Mesa General Hospital went to the governor's office earlier this week. Included is a provision written specifically to allow the hospital to reopen as Arizona Regional Medical Center.
Mesa General, a 126-bed facility first opened in 1965 on Mesa Drive just north of University Drive, closed its doors May 31.
The hospital, which focused on cardiology and cardiovascular surgery as well as fast emergency care, closed after operator Iasis Healthcare decided to terminate its lease of the property effective July 31, saying it couldn't make capital improvements to a leased facility.
The hospital was leased from California-based Sierra Land Group. City Councilman Dave Richins joined in a battle to reopen the hospital as soon as he heard it was closing, not long after Banner Mesa Medical Center closed its doors at 1010 N. Country Club Drive on Sept. 18.
He said the bill is key to bringing back the hospital because current law makes it difficult to reopen a hospital once it's been closed more than 30 days, and the hospital will have been closed two months when Iasis' lease ends.
Arizona regulations require a variety of code upgrades that could make it too expensive or unrealistic to reopen, once the 30 days pass, Richins said.
"If a hospital is closed 31 days, suddenly it's not safe to open again," he said.
The bill, if signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano, would allow the hospital to reopen without the upgrades by October.
Doctors affiliated with Arizona Cardiovascular Specialists will operate the hospital, under a proposed plan.
"We're thrilled," Richins said. "There's not another emergency room for a five-mile radius of that place. We don't have very many urgent care facilities in west Mesa."
"It's a really under-served area for emergency services, especially with the aging population we have in west Mesa." he said
Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, a west Mesa resident, said it was important to try to revive the hospital as the legislative session winds down.
He said the measure was written to narrowly apply only to the Mesa facility and wouldn't affect code regulations on other hospitals that close and reopen.
"As a person who lives in west Mesa, any time you have a facility that's of such benefit to the community, you don't want to see that disappear," he said. "To me, it's very important to have a hospital that's available, nearby. It's a very valuable asset to the quality of life. To just see it go away is not a good thing."