Michelle Resendez needed a back massage.
The 31-year- old Mesa woman gave birth by Caesarean section on Sunday, and by Tuesday she was ready for some pampering.
“I feel like I got hit by a truck or something,” she said. Resendez got that massage — and a pedicure — without leaving her hospital bed at Scottsdale Healthcare Shea hospital.
The services came from the Essential Touch Wellness Center, a spa located within the hospital that serves hospital patients as well as the public.
Spa services are available at both Scottsdale Healthcare hospitals: They’re part of a trend among Valley facilities to make hospitals feel more like resorts.
“Health care’s competitive,” said Tomi Galin, spokeswoman for the IASIS Healthcare Corp., which is building a hospital in Mesa. “In order to be competitive with other hospitals in the community, new hospitals really have to step up the delivery of the environment, as well as highquality care for patients.”
The design and amenities at Valley hospitals are far different than the cold, sterile environments of the past. Instead of an information desk, a concierge will welcome visitors. Instead of walking up and down hallways, patients will have the option of strolling in a healing garden. Instead of scheduled food deliveries, patients will be able to order food when and how they want it.
Four new hospitals will open in the East Valley by the end of 2007, and each one will try to top the other in resortlike service and amenities as they compete for patients.
• Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak hospital, opening late 2007, will have a concierge desk in its lobby, staffed to answer questions and escort visitors to their destinations. There will be classes in yoga, aromatherapy and music therapy, and the whole building eventually will have wireless Internet access.
Spa services also are being considered, said Scottsdale Healthcare spokesman Keith Jones.
• The Banner Gateway Medical Center in Gilbert, opening in fall 2007, will have canyon-themed designs, with earth tones and spacious rooms. The hospital lobby will have a library open to patients and families for research and there will be on-demand room service available for patients.
• The Mountain Vista Medical Center in Mesa, opening in early 2007, will offer valet parking, a children’s play area for emergency-room patients and a three-story atrium with picture windows.
• The Mercy Gilbert Medical Center in Gilbert, opening in June, will offer a healing garden, an open terrace on the fourth floor and plenty of natural light and artwork.
The changes are happening in part because of surveys and focus groups that gauge how patients feel about their hospital stays.
Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak worked with a community advisory council for months to determine what to provide, down to the color scheme for the building, said Jean Knoedler, vice president and administrator.
“They want a comforting environment,” she said. “They want more muted desert tones to the hospital, not a contemporary look.”
Research results have shown that patients want private rooms, which didn’t really surprise Becky Kuhn, CEO of Banner Health.
“Patients can definitely rest better if there’s not someone else in the room with other needs going on at times when the individual is trying to sleep,” Kuhn said. All of the new hospitals will have private rooms.
Hospital administrators claim the amenities only add to the high-quality health care offered at these facilities, and some of the practices have been proven to speed healing. For instance, some studies suggest that massage therapy can decrease pain and anxiety, and increase alertness, the American Cancer Society reports on its Web site, www.cancer.org.
Administrators also claim the extra amenities will not cost patients or insurance companies more but will be absorbed by the hospitals.
The in-room spa services at the Scottsdale Healthcare facilities, however, are just a luxury. Patients pay $20 for manicures and up to $70 for massages.
Some of the so-called amenities, on the other hand, may be compensating for a bigger problem, such as bad parking.
“Some services like valet parking have been around at hospitals for many years,” said John Rivers, CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “It’s more of a function of adequacy of parking facilities.”
Other health care experts are wary of the perks, fearing they might interfere with the level of care.
“If comforts and services contribute to a better condition upon hospital departure, they are worthwhile,” said Reginald Ballantyne, senior corporate officer of Vanguard Health Systems and former chairman of the American Hospital Association. “Getting hooked up on valet parking and spa-related services misses the point that you’re there for quality health care.”
Still, with the number of people moving to the Valley, these resortlike hospitals are likely to add more amenities in the coming years.
By the time her massage ended, Resendez was sold on the concept.
“It makes the hospital a comforting place instead of a scary place,” she said.
Thompson Peak Hospital Where: Scottsdale Road and Thompson Peak Parkway in Scottsdale
When: Opening late 2007
Cost: $98 million
• 64 private rooms
• Cafe-style dining with room service
• Wireless Internet access
• In-room spa services: manicure, pedicure, massage
• Yoga, aromatherapy and music therapy
• Healing garden
Banner Gateway Medical Center
Where: Higley Road and U.S. 60 in Gilbert
When: Opening fall 2007
Cost: $189 million
• 167 private rooms
• Canyonlike landscaping
• Room service
• Internet access
• Library in lobby
• Meditation garden
Mountain Vista Medical Center
Where: Southern Avenue and Crismon Road near U.S. 60 in Mesa
When: Opening early 2007
Cost: More than $100 million
• 170 private rooms
• Three-story atrium lobby with sandstone walls, terrazzo floors and picture windows
• Children’s play area for emergency room patients
• Valet parking
• On-demand room service