QUEEN CREEK — About 190,000 people live in a 15-mile radius of Banner Ironwood Medical Center, and the population is growing steadily — including an average of almost 100 babies delivered at the hospital every month.

The hospital’s Women and Infant Services is among its strongest programs. It includes a comprehensive midwife program, “which is something kind of unique, given the demographic of this market,” hospital CEO Sharon Lind said in an interview with PinalCentral. Midwives deliver almost a third of the babies born at the hospital.

Young mothers are often seeking “a natural birthing experience” and ask for midwives, Lind said. Natural birth usually means little or no anesthesia, “so we have different techniques to help them manage through their pain.” Birthing pools are available to help mothers in labor, although they don’t give birth in pools.

Lind said Ironwood was one of the first Banner hospitals to have nitrous oxide available, which provides a quick pain relief to the mother without harm to the baby. Use of the gas is monitored by midwives, OB-GYNs and an anesthesia team.

The hospital’s certified nurse-midwives also support its OB-GYNs. “If there’s an imminent danger to the mom or the infant, our team will step in.”

A second medical office building, 60,000 square feet, which had a groundbreaking in January, will come online this fall. It will provide specialty clinic space for outpatient services including pediatrics and adult care, with plans for outpatient imaging and an outpatient surgery center on the third floor.

The hospital at 37000 N. Gantzel Road has grown from its original 36 beds to 53, and has plans to finish its fourth and fifth floors for a total of 89 beds around the time it celebrates its 10th anniversary in November 2020, Lind said.

“We are running over capacity; we are really at maximum capacity for our beds. This is what’s prompting us … to really build out the fourth and fifth floors, those additional 36 beds.” The hospital has “shelled space” on those floors, with electrical service and plumbing installed, and much of the furnishings ready to use.

“That will finish this patient tower. … That will provide us space for a dedicated intensive-care unit, pediatric beds and expanded medical-surgical inpatient beds,” Lind said.

As the community has grown, the hospital has added more specialty services including round-the-clock pulmonology and cardiology, infectious disease and renal services. “We’ll be launching bedside dialysis for some of our patients with kidney issues.” Ironwood has a close affiliation with Banner Heart Hospital in Mesa to assist with cardiac care.

This month, the hospital will open its four-room pediatric observation unit so toddlers don’t have to spend the night in the emergency room.

The hospital’s other major programs are orthopedic surgery for total joint and hip care, gastroenterology/GI services, general surgery and a strong robotics program. “We are seeing in our surgical services about 20% growth year by year” with the help of robotics, Lind said.

Over the next two to three years, the hospital could add an additional tower on the northeast side to expand its ancillary and support departments, its operating rooms and its imaging. A new south patient tower will mean a 12-bed extension for each floor, or another 48 beds.

In the next three to five years, a tower on the west side would expand the hospital’s surgical and diagnostic outpatient areas as well as inpatient rooms.

Ironwood is the largest Banner campus, with 80 acres, and could ultimately grow someday to 650 beds, Lind said. Lind, who has worked for Banner Hospitals for seven years, came to Banner Ironwood four years ago.

The hospital has 350 employees and affiliations with 720 physicians.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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