Arkansas Children's Hospital South Wing Ready for Kids

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, May. 28, 2012 12:00 am  

David Berry, chief operating officer of Arkansas Children's Hospital: "It's a 21st-century children's hospital." (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Between 2006 and 2008 “we were on an upward trend,” he said. There’s “not quite as much demand [now] as there was during those days.”

ACH had revenue of $532.1 million for its fiscal year that ended June 30, which was down 0.1 percent from its previous fiscal year.

Need for Space

The idea for the project started around 2006. Between 2002 and 2006, patients from across Arkansas and neighboring states flocked to ACH, the only children’s hospital in the state.

Between June 30, 2002, and June 30, 2006, inpatient admissions jumped 26.11 percent to 13,417. In addition, the number of operations performed increased 35.5 percent to 12,895 during that period.

“We were needing more neonatal intensive care unit beds,” Berry said. “We needed better space for our infants and toddlers, and we had outgrown our emergency department.”

The South Wing was given the green light. But construction of the project in the fall of 2008 came at one of the worst economic times.

ACH wanted to issue bonds to pay for the project. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services assigned the bonds an A+ rating, which means a “strong capacity to meet financial commitments, but somewhat susceptible to adverse economic conditions and changes in circumstances,” according to Standard & Poor’s website.

With the economy faltering, ACH decided to shelf the bond sale in October 2008.

“We weren’t able to sell bonds on the track that we wanted to,” Berry said. “We sort of waited for the economy to recover.”

In the meantime, the project pushed forward using money from donations and the hospital’s reserves.

Hospital officials still were nervous. “At that point, we were concerned we might not be able to sell the bonds, so we had a pause plan in place,” Berry said.



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