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Mercy Hospital Fort Smith’s $186M Expansion to Open in 2025

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Mercy Hospital Fort Smith recently held a topping-out ceremony for its emergency room and intensive care expansion project, a project whose costs have grown by $24 million.

When Mercy Hospital broke ground on the expansion in February 2022, the four-story, 118,512-SF addition to the hospital was projected to cost $162 million. Now the cost is $186 million.

Supply chain issues, inflation and trouble finding skilled workers — “all those things manifested into the increased overall costs,” Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Arkansas, told Arkansas Business. “We didn’t change the scope of the project or anything like that. It’s a difficult time to be doing major expansion projects like this right now.”

Mercy Hospital Fort Smith is part of Mercy, the Catholic health care system based in Chesterfield, Missouri. Mercy, one of the 20 largest U.S. health systems in the country, is paying for the project, and the “increased cost has had no impact on financing decisions,” Gehrig said.

The first phase of the project, which includes a parking deck with 140 spaces, an expanded emergency room and a new main entrance, is expected to be completed in April or May 2025.

About six weeks after the first phase, the first floor of the expanded intensive care unit will be completed, and then six weeks after that, the next ICU floor will be completed, Gehrig said.

The emergency department will grow from 29 to 50 rooms, an expansion that can’t come soon enough for the 368-bed hospital.

Gehrig said that he thought emergency room visits would fall because of the construction, but the opposite happened. The number of visits “grew by 10% the first year, and this year it’s on pace to grow another 8%,” he said.

This year, the hospital’s emergency room is projected to have 64,000 patient visits. The original ER was designed to handle about half that number. “So we’re very excited about getting into this new space. I’ll just put it that way,” Gehrig said.

The new ER space will allow for about 25,000 more patient visits per year. The emergency room also will have a space specifically designed to care for the hospital’s growing number of behavioral health patients.

The project also will expand the intensive care unit from 38 to 64 beds, more than doubling the number of rooms able to support ventilators. Gehrig said the hospital is also seeing an increased number of ICU patients.

“The building’s automation system is being designed to allow floors or pods to be turned into isolation areas as needed,” according to a hospital news release last month.

Once the project is complete, “it’s going to give us the needed capacity we need to continue to grow and better serve the community,” Gehrig said.

The project was designed by HKS Inc. of Dallas, and McCarthy Building Cos. of Richardson, Texas, is the general contractor.

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