Dignity Health Chandler Regional Medical Center has opened a five-story tower that will add nearly 100 patient beds and six operating rooms to its inventory, making it one of the biggest hospitals in Arizona.
More than 200,000 square-feet of new space has been added to the hospital’s east side, allowing staff more room to treat cardiac disease or neurological issues.
The five stories include areas to add more beds to the hospital’s intensive care unit, a new pharmacy and a private chapel for patients.
The tower’s second floor has 24 patient rooms dedicated to thoracic care, a type of treatment for chest and lung problems that was notably lacking in the East Valley’s medical centers.
Mark Slyter, CEO of Dignity Health East Valley, said the new tower raises the hospital’s inventory to 429 beds and offers extra space on its fifth floor for more patient rooms in the future.
“We need the space,” he said. “We need these beds and we have for quite some time.”
The $190 million expansion of Chandler’s oldest hospital took nearly four years to complete, with most of the work occurring in the middle of the pandemic.
Devenney Group Architects and McCarthy Building Companies served as the project’s design-build team. Other partners on the project include WSP, Stantec, RVi, Buehler Engineering, Cannon & Wendt Electrical Co., TDIndustries, The Berg Group, and Schuff Steel Management Company.
“We began this major hospital construction expansion project in the summer of 2019 not knowing that a global pandemic was just around the corner,” said Nick Pearce, project director with McCarthy Building Companies’ Healthcare Services Team. “We not only made patient safety a top priority but also prioritized the health and safety of the crews, who completed more than 500,000 man hours on the project without incident.”
The design-build construction team will remain onsite through the spring of 2022 as they complete the renovations of the existing spaces as well as the garden that serves as a connector of the growing healthcare campus.
At COVID-19’s peak last winter, the hospital had more than 300 virus-stricken patients seeking treatment.
Slyter said the recent expansion will better equip the hospital for any future surges in new COVID-19 cases.
During the pandemic’s roughest peaks, Slyter said Dignity’s staff had to quickly reshuffle resources and carve out new spaces to place critically-ill patients.
“If there’s anything good about a pandemic, it really tests your planning and processes... to make sure you can open up more capacity to take care of patients,” Slyter said.
The tower allows for enough room for any sudden overflow of cases, the CEO added, so patients won’t have to share a like they did during the surge.
“Thankfully, we’ll have the space and, hopefully, won’t have to do that in the near future,” Slyter said about the double-occupancy protocol.
The Chandler hospital opened in the 1960s with only 40 beds in a small building near McQueen Road and Chandler Boulevard. As the city’s population started to rapidly grow in the following decades, the hospital relocated to a bigger campus near Dobson and Frye roads.
Dignity Health, formerly known as Catholic Healthcare West, merged with the Chandler hospital in 1999.
Mayor Kevin Hartke said he’s made several visits to the hospital since he moved to Chandler in the 1980s. He’s seen babies born and friends take their last breath inside its walls over the years.
Hospitals offer a great place of healing for a community, Hartke said, and the expansion of Chandler’s campus will allow more opportunities for residents to heal.
“This particular tower will help improve the quality of life not just for our community, but all of the East Valley residents,” the mayor said.
One of the best perks about hospital expansions in a community, Hartke added, is they generate a jobs that can withstand downturns in the local economy and provide steady employment for Chandler residents.
At least 130 new jobs are expected to be created during the first year of the tower’s opening, plus an additional 70 jobs in the following years.
Planning for the new tower has been in the works for several years, as the hospital was simultaneously in the process of trying to expand other areas of the facility and improve the range of treatment it could offer patients.
The hospital significantly enhanced its services in 2014 by opening a Level 1 trauma center to handle the severest kinds of injuries.
Before Chandler added its trauma center, emergency crews would have to transport East Valley trauma cases to hospitals in Phoenix or Scottsdale to treat gunshot wounds or other serious blunt-force trauma.
Slyter said Chandler’s trauma center is now the busiest in Arizona, providing crucial life-or-death services to residents throughout the East Valley.
Dignity Health is planning more expansion projects in the coming months, including an addition to its Gilbert campus that should be done by next year.
The East Valley will need more medical services in the coming years, Slyter said, as the region prepares to welcome up to one million new residents in the near future. Chandler’s new tower is only the beginning, he said, for what Dignity Health has planned over the next decade.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Slyter added.