Arkansas Children’s exec corrects record on next plans, says it’s too early to discuss Phase II

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 728 views 

Marcy Doderer, president and CEO of Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), said news of Phase II in Springdale was announced prematurely on Friday (March 31), and not everything told to the media was accurate.

Talk Business & Politics on Friday reported ACH was already planning for Phase II which would be a seven- or eight-story physician’s office tower to be built adjacent to the hospital under construction now in Springdale. That report was based on information received while covering a Chamber Leadership event in Fayetteville.

According to Perry Webb, CEO of the Springdale Chamber, “that facility will mean between 600 and 700 new jobs in the region.” Webb spoke of Phase II at the event saying the proposed physician’s tower was in the early planning stage because funding came in for Phase I much faster than anticipated.

Doderer contacted Talk Business & Politics on Monday to clarify and correct misunderstandings about the Arkansas Children’s plans at this time and the funding it has received.

“We are intensely focused on building our in- and out-patient care facility in Springdale at this time,” Doderer said, adding that it’s too early to speculate on what might or might not be built next.

She said while the Northwest Arkansas community has been generous, officially through March 31, $62.8 million of the $70 million campaign goal set in August of last year has been raised. She said it’s wrong to assume that the goal has already been met.

“We are thrilled with the support we have received from Northwest Arkansas, but it’s important for individual families around the 11 counties that will be served by this facility to know that small gifts of $25 or so are just as important to the overall cause of bringing care closer to home,” Doderer added.

Doderer said much planning happened prior to Arkansas Children’s investing in Northwest Arkansas. Those plans included renderings of how ACH might grow in the future but that would be 5 or as long as 25 years and based on the needs in the community. Doderer said she can’t speak to what the future will hold for Arkansas Children’s Northwest beyond the new hospital opening in January.

Doderer said construction of Arkansas Children’s Northwest is moving along well and they should be able to take ownership of the facility in November. Between then and early January, she said the hospital will be furnished and outfitted with drills and training simulations ahead of the official opening.

She said the hospital will employ around 300, with staff support of 250 and 30 physicians which are being recruited. Arkansas Children’s is also relocating its clinics in Lowell and moving that staff of 50 inside the new hospital, a transition that will take place in January.

The 233,613-square-foot facility will feature 24 inpatient beds, an outpatient clinic with 30 exam rooms, a pediatric surgery unit with five operating rooms and physical therapy services. This is the first time Arkansas Children’s has invested in a hospital outside its home of Little Rock, but Doderer said the growing region of Northwest Arkansas is a good fit for the specialty hospital as it will be provide care close to home for more than 200,000 children.

Arkansas Children’s investment in the new hospital will tally more than $427 million over five years, which includes construction, operating expenses. Doderer said it can be fun to think about how the hospital will grow in Northwest Arkansas but before any new plans are made Arkansas Children’s must first open its doors and then deliver on the care it promises in an exceptional way.

“We simply can’t predict what the next step will be,” Doderer said.

Mike Harvey, interim CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, has said the 300 jobs at Arkansas Children’s are part of what is expected to be 1,500 new healthcare related jobs created in the region in the next two years behind $500 billion in investments. All three of the region’s hospital systems have expanded and continue to do so with additional hirings to round out the 1,500.

While it’s possible Springdale could see 600 to 700 new healthcare jobs in the next few years, Doderer said they won’t be all be from Arkansas Children’s.

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