With $173 Million Campus, NEA Baptist Health Will Add 530 Jobs

NEA Baptist Health System of Jonesboro said it will add 530 jobs when it opens its $173 million medical campus in the fall.

The development is once again the largest commercial project in Arkansas. (See list here.) The centerpiece is a six-story, 550,000-SF hospital. The campus also will have a 213,000-SF medical office building and a 34,000-SF cancer care center. The medical campus was also Arkansas’ top commercial project under construction and ranked by valuation in 2011.

NEA Baptist Clinic and NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital employ 1,272 workers.

“With the opening of the new campus, there will be an additional 530 health care and support positions added to the NEA Baptist System,” NEA spokeswoman Deaundra Waddell said in an email in response to questions from Arkansas Business. “These positions include physicians, nurses and support staff.”

Waddell said NEA is spending $400 million on the project, which includes construction costs and furnishing the buildings.

“It goes without saying that the construction of the $400 million investment related to the NEA Baptist Campus in Jonesboro has had a tremendous impact on Jonesboro and Craighead County,” said Craighead County Judge Ed Hill in a statement last week to Arkansas Business. “This project contributes to keeping our economic engine running during an economic downturn that has devastated many areas.”

The project has brought construction jobs to the area. There are 550 workers on the construction site now, and more than 800 will be there at the peak of construction, Waddell said.

Earl Swensson Associates Inc. of Nashville, Tenn., designed the project, and Hoar Construction LLC of Birmingham, Ala., is the general contractor.

Not Enough Space

Paul Betz, the CEO of the NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital, said in 2009 that a new hospital was needed because “we just don’t have enough space to take care of all our patients.”

Hospital officials considered expanding NEA’s 100-bed hospital, which was built in 1976, but found it cheaper to build a new one. NEA Baptist started working on the project in 2009, when it went before the Jonesboro Planning Commission and succeeded in rezoning the three plots of land it bought on Highway 49 North. Part of the 80-acre campus had been zoned residential. Construction work began at the site in 2010.

‘Wave of the Future’

When the medical complex opens, it will connect the medical office building floor by floor to the hospital.

“Patients and physicians can easily move between the two areas, improving access to care,” Betz said.

The model of putting doctors’ offices on the same floor of the inpatient hospital rooms “is the wave of the future for patient care because of its efficiency and responsiveness to patient needs,” NEA said on its website.

The new hospital also will have larger patient and operating rooms. It could be expanded to hold more than 300 beds, Waddell, the spokeswoman for NEA Baptist, said.

The NEA Baptist Center for Cancer Care will feature all of its cancer care services under one roof, from diagnosis to chemotherapy treatments to radiation to support, according to a January news release from NEA.

The Cancer Care “project on our new medical campus combines the oncology and radiation therapy services, along with other areas of the hospital and clinic to add yet another dimension of integrated health care, but this time, it is focused entirely on the treatment of cancer,” Betz said in the news release.