Arkansas Heart Hospital to Partner with Saline Memorial

BENTON -- Arkansas Heart Hospital will open a cardiology clinic on the campus of Saline Memorial Hospital and provide the Benton facility with 24/7 call coverage for emergency heart care needs, it announced Wednesday.

Arkansas Heart Hospital CEO Bruce Murphy said the clinic will open in "about 10 days" and will operate out of existing office space at Saline. Murphy said the agreement was signed on Dec. 23. Since then, AHH doctors have been providing call coverage to the Saline emergency room and performing on-site cath lab procedures.

The clinic will be open five days a week and be called Arkansas Heart Hospital-Benton. According to a news release, the clinic will provide "diagnostic, non-invasive testing and invasive services" and allow for "seamless access to specialty services at Arkansas Heart Hospital when appropriate."

Saline has two cardiologists on staff who will collaborate with a team of AHH providers including six cardiologists and three nurse practitioners devoted to Saline.

The announcement comes on the heels of St. Vincent Health System's purchase of Heart Clinic Arkansas, the state's largest cardiology group, and a partnership between Baptist Health and Arkansas Cardiology to form Baptist Heart Health Institute.

Murphy said the partnership announced Wednesday will enable the Benton hospital to remain independent and for AHH to reach new patients.

"We believe in partnership not only with the hospital, but with the community, patients and collaborating doctors," Murphy said. "This partnership bucks a trend of super consolidation of medical care through system-wide ownership."

He said big, corporate ownership can lead to a level of patient care that's "not quite as crisp" as it is with local, independent facilities.

Murphy, a retired Little Rock cardiologist who helped found AHH, got his start as the only cardiologist serving the Benton area, and said he wanted to give back to the community that essentially gave birth to his practice.

Carla Robertson, Saline's interim CEO, called the partnership a "promising new chapter for Saline Memorial."