Mercy opens new $42 million ortho hospital in Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 427 views 

About 100 people will have a new place to call their work home Monday while others needing orthopedic care will have that care closer to home following the dedication Friday (Oct. 3) of the new Mercy Orthopedic Hospital in Fort Smith.

Mercy Fort Smith President Ryan Gehrig said planning for the hospital was seven years in the making, a part of the hospital's $192 million master plan for its Fort Smith operations. Initial estimates were that the new facility would cost $42 million.

"We've been striving to become a permeating presence in this community, to open up new clinics and better access to care for those we serve," Gehrig said.

The hospital sits at the corner of 79th Street and Phoenix Avenue in Fort Smith and boasts 69,000 square feet on two levels. The new hospital is located at the site where a group of doctors in 2008 tried to build an orthopedic hospital in May 2009. Mercy purchased the site close to two years later in February 2011. Initial planning and site design work began in August 2011 with the original plan to use the existing facility. After digging deeper into the project, Mercy officials decided to remove the steel frame that had been erected and start from scratch.

Mercy Orthopedic Hospital will be able to house 24 patients, but has space available to expand the capacity by 12 inpatient beds if needed. Dr. Keith Bolyard, medical director of Mercy Orthopedic Hospital, said the hospital was not designed to treat the sick like a traditional hospital.

"These are otherwise healthy patients with a knee, hip or shoulder that is slowing them down," he said. "Since this hospital is geared specifically to them, we've been able to design a place that will get them back on their feet faster than ever. No one wants to undergo surgery, but this will streamline the process offering them one place to go for all their needs from pre-op testing to post-op rehab."

In order to do that, the hospital is equipped with a 10,138 square foot outpatient rehabilitation clinic that can serve more than 100 patients per day. Included within the rehab clinic, Gehrig said, is a therapy pool that he said was unique to Fort Smith's orthopedic hospital.

"I was at the (Mercy Orthopedic Hospital) in Springfield, Mo., recently and their hospital didn't have a pool," he noted.

The facility also houses surgical suites as well as waiting areas for family and friends. Pre-operation screening including physicals, EKGs, X-rays and lab work can be done on site.

"This is a true health care destination for patients in need of elective total joint replacement," Gehrig said.

John Swope, president of Mercy Central Communities, said with the completion of Mercy Orthopedic Hospital, much of the $192 million master plan put in place in August 2011 was now in place.

The plan included five key areas:
1. Hire more physicians;
2. Improve technology across the Mercy Fort Smith system;
3. Upgrade current facilities;
4. Take healthcare to patients through new methods; and
5. Build new facilities.

"Our commitment to the Fort Smith community was to spend $192 million to build a healthier Fort Smith," he added.

And the commitment to a healthier Fort Smith goes beyond just being physically healthy, but also making a more economically healthy community, according to Gehrig.

"It will provide a positive economic impact on the community. In addition to the approximately 100 people that will be employed here, many more will come to the area seeking the services offered."

In addition to the orthopedic hospital, Mercy invested $10 million in its Heart and Vascular Center last year, completed $5.1 million in renovations of the Hembree Mercy Cancer Center and has opened or started construction on a variety of new clinics across Fort Smith.

The $42 million orthopedic hospital project, while not yet officially open for business, was opened to the public for tours following the dedication ceremony at noon Friday. The hospital officially opens for business Monday (Oct. 6).