By Rusty Bradshaw
While there are more changes planned for hospital campuses in the Sun Cities, eliminating hospital departments is not part of the plan.
In addition to some changes made in previous years, Banner officials are planning a new emergency department at Banner Boswell Medical Center, 10401 W. Thunderbird Blvd., Sun City, and a 28-bed progressive care unit at Del E. Webb Medical Center, 14502 W. Meeker Blvd., Sun City West.
But each hospital will retain services they have provided for years. Some Sun Cities residents’ concerns of hospital departments closing are confused with outpatient and clinic changes, according to Banner officials.
“In our Sun City and Peoria Banner Health Centers, several cardiologists are moving from an employed model to a private practice model,” David Lozano, Banner Health earned media senior manager, stated in an email.
These providers will continue to work with Banner, and serve Sun City and Peoria, as they transition to a local private practice in July, Mr. Lozano added. They are expected to continue in their current role until that time.
Banner’s neurology and ophthalmology services were discontinued in the Sun City area clinics last year. The health agency will offer urology services in the Sun City area through May 2. Coverage for these three specialty services continues to be available through area private practices affiliated with Banner Health Network, Mr. Lozano explained.
“It is important to understand, the changes mentioned here are relevant to outpatient health centers and clinics only, and do not impact hospital departments or services,” Mr. Lozano stated.
Banner officials are communicating with patients in advance of changes to assure continuity of care and to transition patients to other high quality providers as needed, he added.
While some physicians are making the change from employment to private practice on their own, in some cases changes in Banner clinics have been prompted by a planned change in strategy around a specific specialty or rebalancing for community need, Mr. Lozano explained.
“There has been no impact to patient services at the hospitals,” he stated. “Banner continues to employ more than 850 physicians in Arizona.”
However, Banner officials are continuing to make changes to the way the hospitals provide service. The health agency spent $11.8 million to convert an existing 23,000-square-foot space for business office and conference rooms to patient units with 24 private rooms for medical and surgical patients.
“The long term plan has been to convert Boswell to all private rooms,” said Jeff Nelson, Banner spokesman, in a 2016 interview.
Banner also spent $500,000 to reconfigure and redesign the front entrance and waiting room for emergency room to improve patient flow and privacy, he added. Banner had also begun a renovation project of its operating rooms but put the plan on hold about halfway through, according to Jim Fox, Sun City fire marshal.
“They got halfway through the operating rooms and decided to put the remainder of the project on hold due to the added expense of replacing the concrete floors in the operating rooms they had completed,” he stated in an email.
That project will continue, according to Mr. Nelson.
“These upgrades will include upgraded surgical lighting and new flooring, wall protection, ceilings, countertops and cabinets,” Mr. Nelson stated in an email. “This refurbishment project is anticipated to be completed by October 2018.”
Banner officials have a conceptual plan to construct a new Boswell emergency room at grade level on the east end of the existing outpatient surgery area, which would do away with the current ramp up to the existing ER, according to Mr. Fox. The second phase might include a new patient tower on top of the new ER.
“From what I have heard, these preliminary meetings are to discover any access concerns with the major users of the emergency room (fire and ambulance users),” Mr. Fox said. “I have been in several meetings regarding scope of project and access coordination, but don’t have any concrete schedules, plans or notification that the project is a go at this point in time.”
Mr. Nelson said this project is on hold pending funding for further design development.
“At this juncture, we do not have a timeline for construction,” he said.
At Del E. Webb, Banner spent $1.3 million to replace a 64-slice CT scanner in the emergency room with a 128-slice device, according to Larry Bonno, Del E. Webb medical imaging department director.
Banner officials continue construction on the 28-bed, all-private Progressive Care Unit at Del Webb, which will care for patients who have a history of heart problems and whose physicians want those patients’ hearts closely monitored during their stay, Mr. Nelson explained. The unit will also serve as a stepping stone for patients well enough to leave the intensive care unit, but who require a different level of monitoring than what’s provided in the medical surgical units.
The construction project is converting a 22,952-square-foot shelled space on the fifth floor of Webb’s “D” tower into the new unit.