Chan­dler coun­cil ap­proves Ban­ner Health hospi­tal

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Paulina Pineda

The Chan­dler City Coun­cil unan­i­mously ap­proved the city’s first Ban­ner Health hospi­tal just south of Loop 202 on Thurs­day de­spite protests from neigh­bors who fear the de­vel­op­ment will lead to an in­crease in traf­fic and noise.

Ban­ner Health al­ready op­er­ates a pri­mary-care cen­ter on the edge of the 18-acre site on the cor­ners of Alma School and Wil­lis roads. The non-profit health care sys­tem plans to ex­pand into a 245,000 square­foot hospi­tal and fu­ture phases could in­crease the size of the med­i­cal cam­pus by an­other 82,800 square feet.

Con­struc­tion of the $155 mil­lion project’s first phase is ex­pected to be­gin this month and be com­pleted in Novem­ber 2020.

The coun­cil’s de­ci­sion was met with dis­be­lief from the dozens of res­i­dents op­posed to the project who at­tended the meet­ing, wear­ing stick­ers that said, “Save our neigh­bor­hood.”

Nancy Ryan, who helped spear­head the op­po­si­tion ef­fort, urged the coun­cil to re­con­sider its de­ci­sion dur­ing the call to the pub­lic, the meet­ing por­tion set aside to let res­i­dents ad­dress the coun­cil on any topic.

But the re­sound­ing sen­ti­ment shared by the coun­cil was that a hospi­tal would bring not only jobs to the city, but also pro­vide more health care op­tions for res­i­dents.

Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor Micah Mi­randa said the hospi­tal will em­ploy more than 650 peo­ple once it’s built out, which rep­re­sents pay­roll ben­e­fits of $340 mil­lion over 10 years.

Ban­ner Health Fa­cil­i­ties Ser­vices Vice Pres­i­dent Kip Ed­wards said 66 per­cent of pa­tients drive more than 10 miles to re­ceive health care and 22 per­cent of in­pa­tients leave the south­east Val­ley to re­ceive care. The new hospi­tal would pro­vide a closer op­tion for res­i­dents, he said.

Res­i­dent Os­car Salazar, who spoke in fa­vor of the project, said go­ing to an out-of-net­work hospi­tal is costly. He said he is one of the es­ti­mated 80,000 south­east Val­ley res­i­dents who are part of Ban­ner’s in­sur­ance net­work who will ben­e­fit from the new fa­cil­ity.

Wil­liam Bruno, an­other Chan­dler res­i­dent in Ban­ner’s in­sur­ance net­work, said he doesn’t want to drive to Mesa to be seen at a Ban­ner hospi­tal.

“I want a Ban­ner fa­cil­ity in this com­mu­nity,” he told the coun­cil.

Not every­one wel­comed the project. Res­i­dent Eric Lee, one of five res­i­dents who spoke against the project, told the coun­cil that not only is the hospi­tal’s size much larger than what Ban­ner pro­posed in 2012 when the land was re­zoned for med­i­cal of­fices, the res­i­dents don’t be­lieve an­other hospi­tal is needed in the area. Dig­nity Health’s Chan­dler Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter is less than 2 miles away.

Res­i­dent John Wil­son said a hospi­tal of that size would lead to in­creased traf­fic in the al­ready con­gested area. He said data from the Chan­dler Po­lice De­part­ment show there have been 44 re­ported ac­ci­dents near the in­ter­sec­tions of Loop 202 and Alma School Road and Alma School and Wil­lis roads in the first nine months of 2018.

As part of the project, Ban­ner will ex­pand Alma School Road from two to three lanes from Loop 202 to Maple­wood Street and add a left-turn light at the Alma School and Wil­lis roads in­ter­sec­tion.

Vice Mayor Rene Lopez said the im­prove­ments would help al­le­vi­ate some of the traf­fic and the coun­cil is com­mit­ted to fur­ther study­ing ways to im­prove road ac­cess in the area.

Res­i­dents were also con­cerned that Ban­ner would con­tinue ex­pand­ing the site with­out com­mu­nity in­put and would open a be­hav­ioral health or sub­stance abuse cen­ter at the site.

Ed­wards said there isn’t room for fur­ther ex­pan­sion once the sec­ond phase is com­pleted, and the coun­cil would have to ap­prove any mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the de­vel­op­ment plan.

Ed­wards also agreed Thurs­day to add a stip­u­la­tion to the de­vel­op­ment agree­ment that would pro­hibit Ban­ner from open­ing a li­censed be­hav­ioral health or sub­stance abuse fa­cil­ity at the site. He said Ban­ner al­ready op­er­ates spe­cial­ized be­hav­ioral health and sub­stance abuse cen­ters at other hospi­tals, and the Chan­dler lo­ca­tion would not be ap­pro­pri­ate for such use.

Nev­er­the­less, res­i­dents weren’t sat­is­fied with the con­ces­sions.

They asked that the city ad­dress traf­fic is­sues first, that Ban­ner build the med­i­cal of­fices it had com­mit­ted to build in 2012, and that the hospi­tal be built ac­cord­ing to 2012 plans if it is “ab­so­lutely needed.” They also asked that Ban­ner not in­clude a he­li­pad in the plans.

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