South Arkansas Awaits $55 Million Hospital

South Arkansas Awaits $55 Million Hospital
A drawing of the rehabilitation and behavioral health hospital Jefferson Regional Medical Center and LifePoint Health are planning to operate. (JRMC)

A $55 million, 87,000-SF rehabilitation and behavioral health hospital in White Hall is under construction and can’t open soon enough.

“Both of those service lines are in growing demand, especially behavioral health,” said Brian Thomas, Jefferson Regional Medical Center’s president and CEO. Jefferson Regional Specialty Hospital is set to open in early 2024. 

The hospital will feature 40 inpatient rehabilitation rooms and 36 behavioral health beds, and replace the 28 rehabilitation beds and 18 behavioral health beds at JRMC. 

Thomas said in early 2020 that JRMC was running out of bed space for its rehabilitation and behavioral health patients. It wanted to grow those services on its campus but didn’t have the room or the money. 

JRMC had been in talks for years with Kindred Healthcare of Louisville, Kentucky, which has managed Jefferson Regional’s rehab unit for nearly 30 years, about how to expand the service lines. 

And when COVID arrived in Arkansas in early 2020, “it gave us a lot of time to have those conversations,” Thomas said.  

Kindred had forged a partnership with a hospital to operate its behavioral health and its inpatient rehab side. “And when we heard that idea, we’re like, wait a minute, that could be a really good situation here,” Thomas said. “And we ran the numbers on that, and basically, it came back to be very favorable.”

In 2021, LifePoint Health of Brentwood, Tennessee, acquired Kindred, and the talks continued. The for-profit LifePoint owns three hospitals in Arkansas: National Park Medical Center of Hot Springs, Saline Memorial Hospital of Benton and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center of Russellville. 

JRMC and LifePoint have a joint partnership called Jefferson Regional Specialty Hospital, with JRMC holding the majority interest. JRSH will rent the facility from Anchor Health Properties of Charlottesville, Virginia, which is building the hospital. JRMC is the landowner. The groundbreaking was Oct. 20. LifePoint will manage JRSH and it will have about 200 employees. The hospital, off Exit 32 on Interstate 530, will provide services for adults who have had a loss of function or disability due to stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, neurological disorders, orthopedic surgery and other conditions.

The hospital will also offer geriatric psychiatry, which treats older patients’ mental health and psychiatric disorders. “A lot of elderly patients, nursing home patients that need those services, are often transferred to other parts of the state where they can get those services,” Thomas said. “This will be an added benefit to our patients.” He said providers in the area who are always looking for a behavioral health patient bed have welcomed the news of the new facility. 

“This is going to be a good thing for not just Pine Bluff and Jefferson Regional but also for most all hospitals in southeast Arkansas that are looking to transfer a patient for either one of those service lines,” Thomas said. 

He added that JRMC doesn’t have plans for what to do with the space now occupied by rehabilitation and behavioral health beds once the new hospital opens. But he said that area of the hospital is in need of a renovation because it was built in 1959.  

The general contractor on the project is Brasfield & Gorrie of Birmingham, Alabama. Earl Swensson Associates Inc. of Nashville, Tennessee, is the architect.