Top 10 2006: Hospital Construction Goes Into Overdrive

In 2006, Arkansas hospitals took part in a construction boom reminiscent of the 1950s.
Two factors drove the construction explosion: Facilities were at the end of their useful life and administrators wanted to benefit from "any willing provider" legislation. Under the law, providers that are willing to accept the same terms as contracted providers cannot be excluded from an insurance company's network.
Previously, some hospitals were locked out of the network of Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, the state's dominant insurance carrier.
The biggest construction announcement came from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. UAMS said it would undergo a $255 million redesign featuring a new 500,000-SF hospital, which should be completed in 2008.
UAMS said it was being overrun with patients and had to add room for its staff. Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson also said he would lobby state legislative committees for money to expand the campus to northwest Arkansas to handle extra students.
UAMS was not alone in catching the construction bug. Hospitals said they needed to update their facilities for the aging baby boomer population that is expected to flood hospitals in the coming years.
"It's going to pose a problem for all of us," Wilson told Arkansas Business in February.
St. Vincent Health System of Little Rock announced that it was going to spend $40 million on renovation that featured the construction of a new and larger emergency facility and upgrading of its patient rooms.
Baptist Health and Arkansas Children's Hospital, both in Little Rock, each had $12 million construction projects in 2006.
One of the largest construction projects underway in 2006 was an $89 million, 200-bed hospital in Rogers. The seven-floor, 350,000-SF St. Mary's Mercy Health of Northwest Arkansas should be opened at the end of 2007.
St. Mary's also is building a $20 million medical office building next to the new hospital.
Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, which opened its $90 million campus in 2002, said it would undergo a $60 million expansion that includes adding a fifth floor to its hospital. WRMC's 223 beds were all full about 20 percent of the time.
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