Mercy’s Springdale expansion aimed at bridging healthcare gaps

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,095 views 

Mercy Hospital President Eric Pianalto stands in front of the symbolic red doors replicated from the original Sisters of Mercy Mission in Dublin, Ireland.

More than 150 people attended the groundbreaking of a new $40 million medical facility in Springdale on Thursday. It is one of seven new clinics announced two years ago as part of Mercy’s $247 million expansion in Northwest Arkansas.

The 60,000-square-foot clinic in Springdale will be one of Mercy’s largest clinics in the region, staffed with 10 physicians and 12 medical specialists, said Dr. Steve Goss, president of Mercy Clinic NWA. The clinic will have emergency, primary care and other diagnostic testing available, though no outpatient surgery is planned. He said regional growth has required healthcare providers to fill the gaps and underserved populations. Goss said Dr. Larry Schimmel, who has practiced medicine in Springdale for many years. will move his practice into the new Springdale clinic when it opens late next year.

“We are trying to blend the doctors in this new clinic by hiring some new and recruiting others to the site,” Goss told Talk Business & Politics.

The center will offer specialists in cardiology, pulmonology, urology, ears, nose and throat, rheumatology and endocrinology. The 10 other doctors will range from family practice to primary care and pediatrics.

Eric Pianalto, president of the Mercy Hospital system in Northwest Arkansas, is a Springdale native. He has worked in 25 different markets during his career but said this feels extra special because he knows personally so many that will receive care in the new facility.

“This is a great feeling to see Mercy investing back into the community where I was raised,” he said. “When we began looking at the Springdale needs, we had earmarked a smaller 12,000 clinic but when we got down to the core it became evident that a much larger clinic would be needed so we blew out the footprint to 60,000 square feet. This is a 31-acre lot and there is plenty of room for additional expansion in the future if needed.”

Mercy paid $13 million for the 31-acre site located west of Interstate 49 at Elm Springs Road and 48th Street. He told Talk Business & Politics the $40 million being spent on the new Springdale clinic will include $5 million to be raised by the community. To launch that campaign, Melba Shewmaker and her family donated $1.5 million. The Open Door fundraising campaign for Springdale still needs $3.5 million and Pianalto said he’s confident it will be raised.

Pianalto said the major expansion of its main hospital in Rogers is on time with costs running slightly higher than expected but still within the contingency.

“We have three of the seven floors up and it’s soon going to become more visible as the next four floors are raised,” he said.

Mercy Hopsital’s new tower in Rogers is slated to open in the summer of 2019. Pianalto said Mercy will break ground on the clinic in North Bentonville next month and the clinic under construction in southwest Bentonville is on schedule to open in the spring of 2018. Mercy recently opened a new clinic in Pea Ridge which is busy, according to Dr. Goss.

“We have found that 40% of the patients seen in Pea Ridge are new to Mercy so they are being siphoned from other Mercy locations. This tells us there is room for more expansion as the population continues to swell,” Dr. Goss said.

Dr. Goss said recruiting doctors and staff for the new clinics is a challenge but it’s not as hard as it used to be given the region has so much going for it. That said, Goss explained, the shortage of doctors and nurses is nationwide and there aren’t enough to go around.

With the addition of Arkansas Children’s Hospital Northwest and expansions by Mercy, Northwest Health and Washington Regional, more than 1,500 healthcare jobs are expected to be added to the local economy over the next two years, according to former University of Arkansas economist Kathy Deck.

Employment in the healthcare and social assistance sector is projected to add nearly 4 million jobs by 2026, about one-third of all new jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The share of healthcare and social assistance employment is projected to increase from 12.2% in 2016  to 13.8% in 2026, becoming the largest major sector in 2026.