$1.02 Billion Keeps Baptist Health High on Largest Private Companies List

$1.02 Billion Keeps Baptist Health High on Largest Private Companies List
Baptist Health's Conway hospital opened in September and has 375 employees. It will have 550 workers when it's fully staffed. (Rendering courtesy GSR Andrade Architects)

Baptist Health’s opening of a hospital in Conway in the fall helped boost the health system’s revenue to more than $1.02 billion in 2016.

The 1.6 percent increase from the previous year kept Baptist Health in the No. 8 spot on this year’s list of the largest private companies in Arkansas.

Baptist Health Chief Operating Officer Doug Weeks said the nonprofit health system’s revenue has climbed 21.5 percent since 2013 because of acquisitions and expansions. And it has other expansion plans in the works. Baptist Health is planning a $50 million renovation project at its Little Rock hospital and a $14 million renovation of the former Southwest Regional Medical Center in Little Rock.

Baptist Health also has benefited from the Affordable Care Act, which requires Americans to have health insurance and offered financial assistance in the form of tax credits for those who couldn’t afford it on their own. Baptist’s uninsured patients tumbled from 9.4 percent in 2013 to 3 percent in 2016.

Weeks said Baptist is waiting to see the impact of changes made to Arkansas Works, the name now applied to the program that uses Medicaid expansion dollars to purchase private insurance for about 300,000 Arkansans. Earlier this month the Arkansas Legislature voted to limit eligibility to the federal poverty level — it had been 138 percent of the poverty line — and that is expected to push 60,000 out of the program when the changes go into effect Jan. 1.

Weeks said Baptist is concerned that 60,000 Arkansans could lose their health insurance, but he said it was too early to predict the impact on Baptist Health.

With nine hospitals, Baptist Health had a profitable 2016, “but we weren’t quite at the level that we expected to be,” Weeks said. “It seems like I spend my life making sure our growth is as expected and we contain our costs, and it continues to be more and more challenging.”

Weeks said the bottom line figure wasn’t available to the public as of last week.

“We’re continuing to hammer away at the ways to reduce costs,” he said. “I’m not sure I know of a single health care entity that’s not working on that routinely.”

New Hospitals
Baptist Health’s expansion of its footprint in Arkansas helped fuel its revenue growth. It began operating the 72-bed hospital in Malvern on Jan. 1, 2014.

That hospital had $16.2 million in net patient revenue in 2014 and $20.7 million in 2015.

In September 2016, Baptist opened its $150 million, 260,000-SF hospital in Conway, featuring 111 beds and eight operating rooms. Also on the Conway campus is a $20 million, 50,000-SF Women’s Center, which opened in February, and a $15 million medical office building that will open this summer.

Weeks said Baptist is pleased with the results of the Conway hospital.

“It’s better than we forecasted,” Weeks said. “We’re just getting started. … There’s no doubt we’re going to see growth there.”

Baptist is getting close to launching a $50 million renovation project at its Little Rock hospital that will include additional operating rooms. Spokesman Mark Lowman said the date for the start of the project hasn’t been set.

Construction should also begin “soon,” Weeks said, on renovation of the former Southwest Regional Medical Center in Little Rock, which Baptist bought in 2009 for $14 million. The space will be converted into a behavioral health hospital. Baptist currently offers services such as a geriatrics psychiatry program, a Christian counseling program and a therapy clinic at the location.

The renovation work is expected to take 18 months.

In the meantime, Weeks said Baptist will continue to work on its subsidiary, Baptist Health Physician Partners, to improve health care in Arkansas. In 2011-12, Baptist Health worked with 27 doctors across the state to create the organization.

“We’ve just got to keep working on, … making sure that we’re as accessible as we should be and that our quality is strong,” Weeks said — and that “we have initiatives that provide a positive impact to people in the community.”