Extra thick concrete walls, carpet-covered hallways and other soundreducing equipment will make the new Mercy Gilbert Medical Center one of the most quiet hospitals in the East Valley.
"This is not your traditional hospital," said Laurie Eberst, 47, president and chief executive officer of the medical center.
Eberst said the $152.5 million facility being built on a former alfalfa field at Val Vista Drive and the future Loop 202 in Gilbert will offer the latest in medical technology and provide a major economic boost to the East Valley.
"There’ll be no traditional, overhead loudspeakers, and all the doctors and nurses will wear portable microphones," Eberst said.
She pointed out Friday some of the technical advances for members of the board of directors of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce during a tour of the new facility.
The medical center is part of Catholic Healthcare West’s East Valley operations, which also includes Chandler Regional Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
The new hospital is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, an organization of Catholic nuns.
Ground was broken at the 390,000-square-foot, fourstory hospital nearly a year ago.
The 88-bed facility is expected to open in June 2006, Eberst said.
"The economic impact on Gilbert, the East Valley and throughout the area will be significant," Eberst told Gil- bert chamber directors.
She said the facility will create about 3,000 jobs and provide $1.29 million in taxes annually for Gilbert, and an estimated $283 million in indirect revenue annually through medical and other services.
"We’ll have no problem getting enough physicians, but our biggest challenge will be getting nurses because of the nurse shortage," Eberst said.
One possible remedy, she said, is to establish classes at East Valley high schools, including schools in Chandler and Gilbert and community colleges that would produce trained nurses for the new hospital.
The demand for additional employees will be needed even more when another floor is added to the building south of Pecos Road and east of Val Vista and the total number of beds reaches 400, Eberst said.
"We’re really pleased with the progress, and the cuttingedge technology of the new medical center," said Kathy Langdon, president of the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce.
"We’re also happy with efforts to establish nursing classes in schools that will provide future employees," Langdon said.
Mercy Gilbert Medical Center will be the first fullservice hospital serving a town that is one of the nation’s fastest-growing communities, she pointed out.
Dave McDermed, senior project superintendent for the builder, Kitchell Construction, said the price of steel has increased significantly since the project began.
"We were lucky to get steel at a lower cost when we started," McDermed said. "But it, and the cost of other materials, has gone sky-high ever since."
He said the project, similar to another medical facility built by his company in Henderson, Nev., is on schedule, both in time and financially.
There will be no smoking permitted at any area of the hospital, not even for employees.
Smokers will have to leave the hospital grounds, officials said.
"Our goal is to create an atmosphere where the patients will continue to keep healing both in their bodies and their minds," said Eberst, who has more than 26 years of experience in the health care industry.
She helped design the $130 million expansion project for acute care beds and ancillary services at St. Bernadine Medical Center in San Bernadino, Calif., where she was senior vice president of clinical services before beginning the Gilbert project.
"All the sounds, colors, spaces and other, high-tech items are being used to improve healing at our new medical center here in Gilbert," Eberst said.
Patients, for example, will wear bar codes on their bracelets that will be read by computers before they are given medication to ensure they receive the proper medicine and amounts, she said.
"Nurses won’t have to write all those reams of paper medical reports. It will all be done with hand-held PDAs — personal digit assistants."
Computers located between two patient recovery rooms, for example, will permit nurses to immediately read both patients’ conditions simultaneously without having to personally examine them.
The new hospital’s emergency room will provide 32 beds, a relatively large number "to avoid the current backups in ERs in the Valley," Eberst said.
Overnight rooms will also be provided for visiting family members as well as a chapel, gift shop, administrative offices and other meeting rooms.