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PHOENIX-The surge in hospital acquisitions and development in the Valley continues, with two more hospitals changing hands in a $55-million deal.

Iasis Healthcare Corp. of Franklin, TN has bought the 350-bed St. Luke’s Medical Center in central Phoenix and 109-bed Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital in Tempe. Iasis operated the hospitals for the past two years and is now purchasing them from Meditrust, the health-care subsidiary that’s been selling assets for more than year as its Dallas-based REIT focuses energy and capital on La Quinta Inns Inc.

Iasis has been spending about $7.7 million annually in rent for the hospitals. The acquisition was financed with a $30-million, incremental secured-term loan and a revolving credit facility.

Iasis currently owns or leases 14 hospitals, totaling 2,153 beds, in Mesa, Salt Lake City, the Tampa-St. Petersburg area and Texas. Its Mesa holdings are St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center and Mesa General. The company also operates five ambulatory surgery centers and a Medicaid health plan servicing more than 45,700 members in Arizona.

“We would like to grow in Phoenix,” Eve Hutcherson, an Iasis spokeswoman, tells GlobeSt.com. “We think it’s a very good market. We are interested in a large growing communities in the Sun Belt.”

The health-care field has been the most active segment of this year’s real estate market in construction and acquisitions of hospitals and medical centers. Earlier this year, Vanguard Health Systems, based in Nashville, purchased the 159-bed Paradise Valley Hospital, formerly owned by Dallas-based Triad Hospitals Inc.

Other health-care companies used this year to push development plans in a bid to capture a share of the expanding market in the Valley. Banner Health Systems is spending $90 million on an expansion of Phoenix’s Samaritan Regional Medical Center and adding 148,000 sf to the 28-year-old Desert Samaritan Medical Center in Mesa.

Sun Health is working on a $35-million addition to the Del E. Webb Hospital, located near the retirement haven of Sun City in West Phoenix. Sun Health also has picked a 350-acre site in the suburb of Litchfield for a $200-million medical complex. The Sun campus will have a hospital, nursing home, retirement housing and an $11-million, 75,000-sf medical office building.

In the West Valley, the Plaza Cos. is building the nine-acre Arrowhead Professional Center III medical campus and Rancho Santa Fe Center, a $14-million medical center in Avondale. Earlier this year, Plaza spent $5 million for the 40,000-sf Palm Valley Medical Building in Goodyear’s Palm Valley neighborhood.

Also coming is a $30-million, 50-bed hospital by San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West. Hospital planners are looking at a site on Ellsworth Road, near the future route of Loop 202. Construction should begin within three years.

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