New $25M Baptist Memorial Hospital In West Memphis To Open in 2018

New $25M Baptist Memorial Hospital In West Memphis To Open in 2018
The Baptist Memorial Hospital-Crittenden County will open in 2018. (Artist rendering)

Baptist Memorial Health Care of Memphis expects its approximately $25 million hospital in Crittenden County to open sometime in the first half of 2018.

The 50,000-SF hospital is being built to replace the bankrupt Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis, which closed two years ago.

The hospital’s services will include an emergency room, cancer services, imaging and diagnostics, according to a news release from Baptist Memorial.

The general contractor for the project will be chosen soon, said Brian Welton, CEO and administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Crittenden County. The architect is Earl Swensson Associates Inc. of Nashville, Tennessee.

Crittenden County officials first asked if Baptist Memorial could renovate Crittenden Regional, but Welton said too much work was needed to get the building operational.

Then county officials came up with the idea of building a hospital, and Baptist was interested, Welton said.

“Being able to start from scratch … is a great way to start,” Welton said.

To pay for the construction of a new hospital, Crittenden County voters had to approve the reallocation of a five-year, 1 percent sales tax that first passed in 2014 and was going to be used for Crittenden Regional.

Voters approved the proposal in March, and the tax is expected to generate about $30 million over five years, said Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless. The proceeds of the tax will be used to build the hospital, and any remaining amount will go to Baptist.

The new hospital will be built on 20 acres at Seventh Street and Interstate 40 in West Memphis. The location is expected to be easier for patients to reach than the older hospital, which was about 2.5 miles south of I-40, Welton said.

Baptist Memorial also hopes to attract patients from Memphis and the surrounding counties.

Welton said that a professional building could be built at the site, but nothing other than the hospital has been decided.

The opening of the hospital can’t come soon enough for Wheeless. The Crittenden Regional Hospital abruptly shut its doors in September 2014 because it didn’t have enough money to operate. The Crittenden Hospital Association reported $33.3 million in debts and $27.75 million in assets when it filed for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy remains open.

The one bright spot for the county is that the old hospital building is being used by Arkansas Community Correction for women who are being treated for substance abuse.

ACC is leasing the building from the county for $1 a year, but it is responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep of the facility, Wheeless said. And that brought 138 new jobs to the county, he said.

Still, since Crittenden Regional closed, the county of about 50,000 people has been without a hospital. Wheeless said ambulances are sometimes tied up for two to six hours transporting patients to hospitals that are hours away.

“It’s been a big burden on the emergency services in this county, but we don’t expect that to change until the hospital does get built,” Wheeless said.

And when Baptist Memorial opens, it is expected to help attract businesses to the area.

“The hospital is going to be that anchor that’s going to get some new businesses and industry here,” he said. “Within the next two years, I believe this county is going to see some growth that they haven’t seen in quite some time.”