Extensive Hospital Construction Continues Around State

The largest commercial project currently under way in Arkansas is an $89 million, 200-bed hospital in Rogers.

The seven-floor, 350,000-SF St. Mary's Mercy Health of Northwest Arkansas should be open at the end of 2007, said Clark Ellison, executive director of development at Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas.

The new hospital is one of six hospital construction projects on this year's list of the state's largest commercial projects (see pages 25-31). The six hospitals are spending a total of $155.6 million on construction.

The amount could have been higher. Ellison said St. Mary's plans on building a $20 million medical office building next to the new hospital. But a contract hasn't been awarded yet and Arkansas Business only considers projects under contract for its list of the largest commercial projects.

Another top health care project under construction is the $25 million North Arkansas Regional Medical Center Patient Tower expansion in Harrison. The addition includes a four-story building that will house 45-50 new patient rooms and a wellness center.

The hospital has about 175 beds and had a $622,263 net income on $123.5 million in patient revenue during the fiscal year that ended in March 2005.

Paul Cunningham, senior vice president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, said for some hospitals it's important to keep expanding.

"Especially in the northwest part of the state, there's a tremendous growth going on up there," he said.

The hospitals have to keep up with that demand and keep their services and facilities upgraded as much as possible, he said.

"I'm sure there's a degree of competition to it that goes into it as well," Cunningham said.

St. Mary's

The new Mercy Health System hospital will be the centerpiece of a $145 million project that includes the new medical office building, Ellison said.

The road to the new medical campus started in 1998 when nearly 75 acres near Interstate 540 were donated to the hospital.

"We knew that one day that we would make a move to a new facility out there," Ellison said.

In 2002, the hospital officials started taking a hard look at the site to build the new campus. The goal was to change the way the hospital did business, Ellison said.

He said the health care industry has been good at pouring money into new equipment and new medicines but patient care had been left in the waiting room.

The new hospital will have all private rooms. In the existing hospital, which has 165 beds, only a handful of rooms are private.

Also, there won't be a nurses' station. The nurses will have a work area by the patient's door to do their reports.

"It allows the caregivers to be closer to the patient," Ellison said.

The hospital staff also will attempt to do as much work as possible electronically and eliminate all paper charts and orders.

J.E. Dunn Construction Group of Kansas City, Mo., will build the new facility.

Ellison said the hospital has a $40 million capital campaign under way to pay for the building. The rest of the bill will be paid for with debt and operating funds.

The total price tag of $145 million includes the cost to build the infrastructure, add the utilities and furnish the hospital.

It still is unclear what will be done with the old hospital. Ellison said it could be rented, sold or used for extra hospital space.

For its fiscal year that ended June 30, 2004, the latest figures available to Arkansas Business, St. Mary's had a net income of $6.2 million in patient revenue of $148 million.

Arkansas Children's Hospital

Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock recently started work on its new parking deck, which it values at $12 million. The deck is expected to be completed in October.

The new deck will add 1,100 parking spaces to the hospital and its medical center, said Lori Howard, director of facilities, design and planning at the hospital.

The structure will be built into the side of a hill, which will allow patients to enter each of the deck's four levels from the street.

Arkansas Children's Hospital currently has about 2,500 parking spaces, but about 250 of those were lost to build the new deck.

The project is No. 68 on this year's list. Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway is building the deck.

Delta Memorial Hospital

Only a few months after Dumas residents overwhelmingly passed a 2 percent sales tax in May 2003 to help build a new hospital, construction started.

Renovating Delta Memorial Hospital, which had been built in 1949 and opened in 1950, would have cost more than starting from scratch, said hospital President and CEO Mark Deal.

The new hospital should be completed in the middle of April, and the hospital staff should move in by May.

Some of the features include birthing suites, a full medical laboratory and a full-service radiology department.

It will have 25 beds, eight bassinettes and 10 geriatric/psychiatric beds. While the old hospital had the same number of beds, the new hospital is 60,000 SF, compared with the 35,000-SF old hospital.

For its fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2004, Delta Memorial had $11.7 million in revenue and a $1.3 million loss.

Ideal Construction Co. of Crossett is handling the $11 million construction project.

Baptist Health

The intensive care unit at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock is undergoing its own surgery.

When the nearly $12 million project is finished on March 31, 36 critical-care beds will have been added to the hospital, said Doug Weeks, senior vice president and administrator.

Weeks said Baptist was experiencing a shortage of critical-care beds and on any given day there weren't enough of the 80 critical care beds available.

The new features of the expanded unit include an electronic intensive care unit. The EICU will allow the attending doctor and nurse keep an eye on the patient, and another doctor and nurse will be able to monitor the patient's vital signs and see the patient through electronic monitors.

The expanded unit also will have a ceiling lift to move patients out of bed into a wheelchair or stretcher, Weeks said.

Baldwin & Shell Construction Co. of Little Rock is the contractor.