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Arkansas Heart Hospital Contract with Saline Memorial to End

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Arkansas Heart Hospital of Little Rock said Thursday that its cardiac coverage agreement with Saline Memorial Hospital of Benton will end Sept. 30 after five years.

In a news release, Arkansas Heart said Saline Memorial had decided not to renew the contract. Arkansas Heart said it will continue to see patients at its Benton clinic.

“Our partnership with Saline Memorial Hospital was eroded by the entrance of a recently introduced co-owner new to patient care in Saline County,” Arkansas Heart Hospital CEO Bruce Murphy said. “It has not been our business model to provide cardiology coverage to corporately owned hospitals in the past; as we are 100 percent focused on the quality of our work and 100 percent focused on patient satisfaction.”

In March, Saline Memorial’s board of directors voted to create a public-private partnership with Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tennessee. Capella operates 10 acute care and specialty hospitals in five states, including two in Arkansas — National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs and St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Russellville.

The two had been exploring a partnership since last year. Officials at Saline Memorial said the tie-up would provide more resources that would help them expand services, recruit specialists and improve quality. Other health care entities in Arkansas have announced partnerships, part of the national trend toward hospital affiliations amid federal health care reform, new regulations and funding cuts. 

Adam Head, Arkansas Heart’s Chief Operating Officer, said he was “disappointed” that the partnership is ending. But Arkansas Heart said it will continue to serve residents of Saline County and surrounding areas with cardiology services at its clinic, at 5 Medical Park Drive in Benton.

“The only thing that this agreement ends is actually what is performed inside the hospital building,” Arkansas Heart spokesperson Michelle Rupp said. “All of our patients stay the same and come to the same clinic there in Benton.”

Rupp said patients Arkansas Heart served at Saline Memorial first went through Arkansas Heart’s clinic. Now, if a patient has a condition that must be addressed at a hospital, the clinic will send patients directly to the Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock.

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