The sign says it’s closing Sept. 18, but the welcome mat is still out at Banner Mesa Medical Center.
Nearly every service — from obstetrics to oncology — will remain up and running until the 47-year-old hospital in northwest Mesa closes its doors and the new Banner Gateway Medical Center at U.S. 60 and Higley Road in Gilbert opens for business simultaneously.
State regulations, and good patient relations, dictate that Banner Mesa stay open until the bitter end. Licensed as a full-service hospital, the facility could jeopardize its standing if it offered anything less.
“We’ll be delivering babies up until the day we move,” said hospital spokeswoman Susan Gordon. “We’re not stopping any type of care.”
There will be some changes as the date gets closer, however. And as news spreads of its impending closure, the hospital already is running at less than 50 percent capacity with 66 patients there Friday.
Patients who receive ongoing care for chronic health conditions likely will go to Banner Desert Medical Center in southwest Mesa or Banner Baywood Medical Center in northeast Mesa for treatment during the move, said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief medical officer for Banner Mesa and Banner Gateway.
Banner Mesa’s eight operating rooms will phase down to two or three as the closing date nears, with elective surgeries postponed or moved to one of the sister hospitals. Any X-rays or other procedures that span several days also will be delayed so that they can be done, start to finish, at one location.
Those who remain in the hospital Sept. 18 will be taken by Southwest Ambulance to the new facility, though a few may be transferred elsewhere, depending on their medical condition and their preference.
“We’ve been totally involved from day one about how current patients will get transferred,” said Josh Weiss, spokesman for Southwest Ambulance. “We’ve got the staffs in place. We’ve got the ambulances in place. We’re ready to go.”
No one can be sure how many patients will be left in the old hospital Sept. 18, but 50 is the working estimate. Weiss said some likely will need specialized ambulances with respirators, IVs and nurses.
On Sept. 18, both Banner Mesa and Banner Gateway emergency departments will be open. But Bessel said patients who walk in to Banner Mesa on Sept. 17 or 18 will be transferred to Gateway or another Banner facility if it appears they need to be admitted.
“The emergency department is the front door to the hospital for most patients,” she said. “We’re not discouraging any patients from seeking emergency care if that’s what they need.”
Banner Mesa has canvassed the neighborhood by mail, met with doctors and other health care providers and talked with patients in hope that everyone knows what’s coming.
The fliers feature a map showing three hospitals — Banner Desert, Banner Gateway and Banner Baywood — noting that many around Banner Mesa may find it more convenient to switch to the Desert and Baywood facilities.
Banner Health announced in 2005 that it would close its oldest hospital to avoid massive renovation costs, estimated at $138 million, and open a new facility in Gilbert to serve the booming southeast Valley.
The $207 million, 176-bed Banner Gateway will be run by the same staff from Banner Mesa, including top administrators, though it remains to be seen how many patients will follow.
“There are a lot of people who have ties to Banner Mesa,” Bessel said. “The care really has to do with the people, and the people will be the same at Banner Gateway.”
For information on the Banner Mesa/Banner Gateway transition, call (480) 834-1211 or visit www.bannerhealth.com.