A crowd of retired and currently practicing nurses and physicians joined U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, and the administrative staff of Sparks Regional Medical Center Friday night (March 2) for a historic ribbon-cutting ceremony to christen the new surgery suites on the second floor of the Sparks Renaissance building.
After honoring a host of former Sparks personnel, Sparks CEO Melody Trimble and Director of Marketing Donna Bragg guided guests through a tour of the new facility, where more than $17 million worth of renovations and new equipment were on display for the first time.
During the tour, doctors and staff showed an actual hysterectomy, performed with laser precision by a set of robotic arms, on one of the flat-screens, and demonstrated and explained other pieces of equipment and their functions.
The first scheduled surgery will be performed on Tuesday, according to Dr. Nabil Akkad, the facility’s Chief of Surgery.
“What we have is state-of-the-art technology. It is top-of-the-line with smart monitors to control everything visually. Smart rooms and equipment, everything. The effectiveness of surgery owes much to new technology, and we are hoping to bring these new procedures and technology into this community,” Dr. Akkad told The City Wire prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony.
SIGNIFICANT CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT
Sen. Boozman added, “I think Fort Smith has positioned itself as one of the truly outstanding medical communities. The regional draw from this area is tremendous, and Sparks really has fulfilled that need. This is an outstanding significant capital improvement and will offer tremendous care to the people of our area.”
Boozman continued: “I’m an optometrist by training, and when you’re out in the smaller communities, you want to do all you can do, but it’s very comforting to know there is a facility not very far away where you can refer patients and get truly as good of care as any place in the country. And that’s what we have in Fort Smith, and it's something we can truly be proud of."
Boozman also said the Sparks renovation “is very much a complement to St. Edwards, and that both institutions are outstanding.” He said the Fort Smith region needs both hospitals to be active and improving.
“The reality is neither one can do it all, and the region truly needs two outstanding entities like it has to fulfill the tremendous draw we have,” Boozman said.
Earlier in the day, Trimble previewed her facility’s new surgery suites at the First Friday Breakfast of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Renaissance Building in which the suites reside opened March 1, 2008, and now almost four years to the day, the ten “Smart” Operating Rooms feature “the very best in medical equipment,” Trimble said, including high definition monitoring equipment, an LED lighting system, an automated sterilization system, a newly constructed connecting corridor, “and room for future growth.”
The surgery suites take up 44,000 square feet of the 142,000 square-foot building.
At the breakfast, Trimble said that the new Surgery Department serves as a “continuing celebration” of the hospital’s 125-year history, as she traced the hospital’s lineage from Fort Smith Reverend George Degen to the present for those in attendance.
“What happened (in 1887) is some folks were working on the railroad, and one of the young men was injured. He had no family, nowhere to stay. Reverend Degen went to the local merchants, who were just as giving as they are today, and attained $500 to help care for the young man,” Trimble explained.
The hospital’s next big break, and the name it still bears, came in 1908 when George Sparks, the husband of Mrs. Ann Dibrell Sparks “bequeathed $25,000 for a 100-bed wing to honor the memory of his dead wife.”
Trimble added, “One hundred beds doesn’t go very far today.”
Sparks Regional Medical Center moved to its current location in 1953, added a six-story, 206-bed wing in 1969, and the $40.4 million Renaissance Building in 2008. The Surgery Project is the hospital’s largest undertaking of the new decade.
“We have robots, monitors, stealth — stuff nobody else has in the state of Arkansas. There is no reason to go out of this community for health care. It needs to stay local and needs to stay here,” Trimble said.
Also at the breakfast, Trimble shared some of the Medical Center’s 2011 statistics. According to the CEO, 63,000 patients received emergency care with an average turnaround time of 3 hours, approximately half the national average. Trimble noted the facility also doled out $53 million in uncompensated care.
“We had a young lady, who needed a pacemaker, and couldn’t pay. We have to have people that pay, but on those kinds of decisions it is never wrong to do the right thing, and we did,” she said.
In collected property and sales tax for 2011, Trimble reported a total of $5 million “we put back into the community for economic development,” along with “$524,000 in community donations.”