Arkansas Children’s Northwest shares master plan, reports tight outpatient capacity

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 3,244 views 

Arkansas Children’s Northwest opened its doors four weeks ago and administrators have spent the past two months working with regulators on pending accreditation required for Medicaid and Medicare payments.

Trisha Montague, the hospital’s chief administrator, told Springdale planning commission members Monday (March 26) about the master plan for the hospital. She also said the joint commission survey was held last week and there were no findings to delay receipt of the “deemed status” needed to bill through Medicare and Medicaid.

Montague said part of the reason Arkansas Children’s wanted a hospital presence in the region was to bridge the gap for children relying on Medicaid insurance for primary and secondary healthcare needs.

“Things are certainly moving and progressing well as we are getting through those huge, critical steps to opening a brand new hospital. Our emergency department is functioning well and the inpatient unit is busy. We are just delighted to be in Northwest Arkansas,” she told the group.

Montague said the growth trajectory in Northwest Arkansas led the hospital group to lay out a 25-year master plan which allows for expansion. The 37-acres of land gifted to the hospital by the George and Evans families allows for a larger campus and more buildings. Montague said the 25-year plan takes the facility up to 96 beds with other expansions that could include a research facility connected to the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute in Little Rock and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

She said the 233,613 square-foot hospital (Phase 1) is laid out in four floors with the third floor being dedicated to outpatient services which moved from another location in Lowell earlier this year. The outpatient clinic has 30 exam rooms and supports more than 20 speciality areas and general pediatrics.

Montague said the outpatient clinic is at capacity just three months into operation at the new site which has administrators talking about Phase II possibilities within the next couple of years. She said the outpatient clinic also includes diagnostic testing and the hospital is already having to reconfigure some shell space into more rooms for the outpatient clinic.

She said Phase II would likely include a new, separate outpatient building on the campus constructed to the west of the hospital. She said if and when that building is constructed the entire third floor would then be reconfigured into inpatient rooms – roughly doubling the inpatient capacity for the hospital. That would also allow the hospital to add critical care beds.

“We purposely built this hospital as a full service, low acuity pediatric community hospital. We have to use our resources wisely and opening a small hospital does not allow us to quickly right-size. We are being thoughtful about how we expand to allow for critical care. It’s nearly impossible to start from the ground up and add a critical care unit. but over time we will get there,” she explained.

Montague said Phase II could move from talking to planning in roughly two years, or maybe 18 months.

Arkansas Children’s Hospital Foundation raised $80 million over 17 months, exceeding the $70 million goal thanks to more than 14,000 donors. The overall financial investment is a projected $427.7 million which includes construction, $2 million in overruns, and technology, equipment and operating expenses for the the first five years.

She said the typical inpatient might be a child experiencing respiratory distress who needs oxygen therapy, and there have been a few admitted as having seizures and there have been some arms broken that needed surgery. The young oncology patients who get treatment for Leukemia can now get those treatments in Springdale.

The hospital also has Angel One, the helicopter transfer service to Little Rock. Montague said Angel One is in Springdale at least once a day, which was also true before the hospital was complete. She said Angel One averages 430 trips to Northwest Arkansas a year.

“Now that the local pediatric emergency room is open the experience is truly different for kids. We can stabilize them and we’ve got a world-class team of speciality pediatric doctors and nurses to attend them until Angel One can get here,” Montague said.

She said the medical offices soon-to-be under construction by the George family are a commercial venture but one that is critical for Arkansas Children’s as hospitals don’t usually build physicians’ buildings because it’s not the best use of capital.

Montague said a childcare center, restaurants and connectivity to Tyson Park with a pedestrian walkway are other amenities best suited for the hospital campus.

“We actually like looking out and seeing the cows, but understand that won’t likely always be the view as the area continues to develop. I have been in talks with Ronald McDonald House and can foresee that coming to the immediate area as well,” Montague said.

The hospital will hold its grand opening celebration on Wednesday (March 28) from 2:30 to 4 p.m. The public is invited.