Baptist Health to Build Hospital in Conway by 2016

Baptist Health of Little Rock announced Wednesday that it is building a 100-bed hospital in Conway that is expected to open in 2016.

Baptist is "collaborating" with more than 30 Conway doctors to develop the medical center "to be operated as a not-for-profit, faith-based community hospital that will provide comprehensive clinical services," according to a Baptist news release.

"Baptist Health and a dedicated team of local physicians will bring to the community of Conway and surrounding areas an innovative and cooperative approach to providing the highest standards of clinical quality, a fully staffed emergency room, and a proven track record of long-term commitment to supporting Arkansas communities," said Russell Harrington, president and CEO of Baptist Health.

Dr. Benjamin Dodge of Conway is chairman of a steering committee of nine physicians representing the Conway physicians.

"We feel Baptist Health understands the current healthcare environment and through collaboration has created an excellent avenue for area physicians and Baptist Health to align their goals, roll up their sleeves together, and get down to the business of creating a great hospital," he said.

The 200,000-SF Baptist Health Medical Center – Conway will be on about 37 acres on the west side of Interstate 40, near Exit 129. It will employ about 425 workers when it opens and have seven operating rooms, officials said. Construction is expected to begin in 2014.

Mark Lowman, a spokesman for Baptist Health, declined to release the estimated cost for the project.

The announcement comes about a week after Conway Regional Health System's Board of Directors said it is exploring "potential strategic affiliation options," including partnering with another health care provider or system.

The system, which said its board has been researching the options for "months," said it will invite potential partners to offer ideas about different affiliation options. 

On Wednesday, Lowman said Baptist has been in discussion with Conway Regional Medical Center about a possible affiliation.

"We hope those discussions continue," Lowman said.

Jim Lambert, Conway Regional's president and CEO, told Arkansas Business last week that the health system is close to sending requests for proposals about possible partnerships to regional and national health care organizations.

Lambert said they'd like to get responses back by around the first of the year so the board can decide in the first quarter whether the health system will pursue a partnership or continue on its own.