As St. Bernards Healthcare finishes its $102 million medical tower on its Jonesboro campus, the health care system continues to grow in northeast Arkansas.
In February, St. Bernards began operating the 40-bed Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas, which is now called St. Bernards Five Rivers. The city of Pocahontas remains the owner of the hospital.
“We’re excited about the relationship that we have with them,” said Darren Caldwell, senior vice president of regional services at St. Bernards Healthcare. “It’s a community that’s been very supportive of St. Bernards over many years.”
The two entities began talking about operating the hospital in October. They had hoped to have a lease agreement in place by the end of 2018, but the government shutdown caused a delay, Caldwell said.
One of the reasons Five Rivers, like other small rural hospitals, struggled financially was that it couldn’t leverage its size to get lower costs from suppliers for buying in bulk, Caldwell said.
“The leadership of the organization was very diligent in the work that they did, but sometimes you’re in a scenario that maintaining a hospital in a small community is nearly impossible,” he said.
Five Rivers had a loss of $342,000 on net patient revenue of $16.9 million in 2017, according to the most recent figures available to Arkansas Business. In 2016, the hospital reported a net income of $742,000 on net patient revenue of $14.9 million.
Caldwell said he wasn’t sure if Five Rivers would be in the black at the end of the year. But the hospital’s financial health is improving and it eventually will have a profit, he said.
St. Bernards plans to add diagnostic services and surgeries to Five Rivers.
To reduce expenses, St. Bernards will consider attrition to reduce redundancies in its operations. And Five Rivers is expected to save money buying supplies through St. Bernards’ pharmacy and supply contracts, Caldwell said.
St. Bernards has a lease or management agreement with other hospitals in the area, including CrossRidge Community Hospital at Wynne and the Mississippi County Hospital System.
“We recognize that these communities need quality care, and in many instances that means having a quality hospital,” Caldwell said.
Operating other hospitals also meets St. Bernards’ mission, which is to “provide Christ-like healing to the community through education, treatment and health services,” according to its website.
Meanwhile, St. Bernards is preparing for the ribbon-cutting of its $102 million medical tower on the campus of St. Bernards Medical Center.
The ceremony for the surgical and intensive care tower will be on Dec. 10, and patients will move into the 245,000-SF building on Dec. 13, said Kevin Hodges, St. Bernards’ senior vice president of administrative services.
The tower, which is 88 feet tall, will feature 46 intensive care units, he said. In addition, the preoperative and post-anesthesia care units are adjacent to the 14 surgical rooms.
“That’s convenient for our patients and families and visitors who come to the facility,” as well as for the doctors and the medical support staff, Hodges said.
The five-level facility will have shell space on the fourth floor for future growth, Hodges said.
The tower was the centerpiece of a four-phase project that began in late 2015. Site work on the tower started in 2017.
Hodges said St. Bernards used a bond issue to help fund the project.
In January, St. Bernards plans to start construction on the last phase, which calls for the remodeling of the cafeteria and nutritional services areas and upgrading the visitor area.
The contractor for the tower was Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway, and the architect was HKS Inc. of Dallas.