Mercy to build $7.9 million clinic near Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 457 views 

Mercy Clinic-Fort Smith is building a $7.9 million clinic in Chaffee Crossing and within walking distance of the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine (ACOM). It’s one of the first major economic ripples associated with the more than $32 million osteopathic college set to begin classes in Fall 2017.

Dr. Cole Goodman, president of Mercy Clinic-Fort Smith, said the work is part of a collaboration with the ACOM to provide space for a recently approved residency program. The 13,500-square-foot clinic will house eight physicians, three advanced practitioners and around 30 support staff. The clinic will include 28 exam rooms, x-ray, triage, laboratory and conference space for the residency program training requirements.

“Mercy Clinic couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this collaboration with the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education and the proposed Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine,” Goodman said in a statement. “Our foundress, Catherine McAuley, understood the importance of educating a new generation of men and women to care for those in need. She educated, trained and equipped her caregivers with the skills they needed to continue her mission. Today, that mission continues. Our newest clinic will not only care for the acute needs of patients in our community today, it will also be a teaching ground for a generation of students that will be the face of tomorrow’s health care. Mercy is honored to help prepare those who will someday care for our neighbors, parents, children and friends.”

Work on the clinic is set to begin in early 2016 and completed in nine months.

Kyle Parker, president and CEO of the Arkansas Colleges of Health Education, the parent entity of ACOM, said the clinic is part of a larger development plan.

“ACHE is dedicated to using the 228 acres at Chaffee Crossing to further its mission. We are thrilled to collaborate with Mercy Clinic and other members of the Fort Smith and Barling communities to improve health and access to care,” Parker said.

Work began in February on the $32.4 million facility located in the Chaffee Crossing area. The osteopathic school will be housed in a three story, 102,000-square-foot building, and a fully operational osteopathic college is expected to serve about 600 students. Initial planning estimated that the new college would employ around 92 (full-time equivalent jobs) with an average salary of $116,000 – not including adjunct professors and other part-time support.

Funding for the college and associated development comes from The Degen Foundation, a Fort Smith-based philanthropy created with some of the revenue from the 2009 sale of Sparks Health System to then Naples, Fla.-based Health Management Associates. As of July 2013, the Degen Foundation held $60.673 million. The college also has received a $14 million anonymous donation and has access to a $25 million low-interest loan.

Parker has said the college is needed and collaborations with hospital systems is necessary because of a growing U.S. physician shortage. That shortage is quantified in a March 2015 study commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The report, conducted by IHS Inc., shows that by 2025 the physician shortage will range between 46,000 and 90,000 annually.

The Mercy Clinic expansion at Chaffee Crossing is part of a more than $192 million plan officials with the St. Louis-based hospital system announced in August 2011. Key goals of the 10-year investment plan included hiring more physicians, improving technology systemwide, upgrading existing operations, and building new facilities.

One of the largest segments of the investment was a $42 million Mercy Orthopedic Hospital in Fort Smith that opened in October 2014. In addition to surgical assets, the facility also included a rehab center. The complex can house 24 patients, with 12 inpatient beds if needed.

Mercy is the seventh largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and includes 45 acute care and specialty (heart, children’s, orthopedic and rehab) hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.