Mercy to acquire Cooper Clinic, transition to begin Nov. 1

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 1,682 views 

Cooper Clinic, once one of the largest physician-owned clinics in Arkansas, has been acquired by Mercy Clinic-Fort Smith, which is owned by St. Louis-based Mercy. News of the potential deal first broke Sept. 7. Mercy issued a statement Thursday (Oct. 19) saying the boards of both groups voted to move forward on the deal.

Potential terms of what will be a private transaction were not disclosed.

Mercy includes 44 acute care and specialty hospitals, more than 700 physician practices and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,100 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy Clinic also has 600 advanced practitioners and supporting staff in more than than 300 offices.

Cooper Clinic, independent and physician-owned, has been in operation more than 97 years and has physicians who practice in 25 specialties. When the clinic opened in 1920 by Dr. St. Cloud Cooper, its offices were on the sixth floor of the First National Bank of Fort Smith building in downtown Fort Smith.

Following the statement received Thursday from Mercy Senior Media Relations Specialist Jennifer Cook.

“The boards of directors of Cooper Clinic, P.A., and Mercy Clinic Fort Smith have voted to move forward with a joining of the two entities’ clinics.

“Board members concluded that the integration will provide exceptional opportunities for strengthening patient care and supporting local communities in ways that could not have been accomplished as separate organizations.

“Mercy Fort Smith has grown to serve more than 450,000 residents in 13 counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma through its network of hospitals, primary, specialty and convenient care clinics. Mercy operates 47 clinic locations in Fort Smith and surrounding communities. Under this agreement, participating Cooper Clinic providers and more than 400 co-workers at multiple locations within a 45-mile radius of Fort Smith will be integrated into the Mercy system.

“Physicians and co-workers in both organizations will be involved with efforts to ensure a smooth transition, which will begin Nov. 1. Additional information will be provided in the coming weeks to patients, co-workers and the community.

“This is an exciting development for this area. It will combine the strengths of both Cooper Clinic and Mercy and provide a strong foundation for the continuation of quality healthcare in the River Valley.”

ECONOMIC SHIFT
It’s unclear how many doctors who were with Cooper Clinic prior to the Sept. 7 news are still at the clinic. It was learned in late September that five of the six orthopedic surgeons moved to Sparks Health System, the competing hospital network in the Fort Smith metro.

Dr. Stephen Heim, a veteran orthopedic surgeon in Fort Smith and Arkansas who was has with Cooper Clinic since 1988, said in a Sept. 21 interview with Talk Business & Politics that a shift in “medical economics” made it more difficult for physicians in certain specialties to make money unless directly working for a hospital. Heim said good management at Cooper Clinic and a “loyal cadre” of doctors have helped Cooper Clinic remain viable possibly longer than it should have in the face of the changing medical economics.

He also said it is important the Fort Smith area have two financially healthy and competitive hospital systems.

Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders said the deal is historic for the region’s medical community but he does not believe it reduces the quality of area medical care.

“It does mark the end of a long existing organization. However the (Cooper) physicians and the care they and their staff members have provided will remain part of the community. And Mercy will do as they always do to provide great medical care for Fort Smith,” Mayor Sanders said Thursday.

Talk Business & Politics plans to update this story later today.

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