Mercy officials talk about Rogers hospital expansion opening, staffing new clinics

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 610 views 

Mercy opened the last of seven clinics in Springdale this week as part of a $277 million expansion plan announced three years ago.

Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas opened its seventh clinic in the past three years with Tuesday’s (Sept. 17) christening of the new $47 million multispecialty clinic in Springdale. More than 200 people gathered at Tuesday’s event.

Eric Pianalto, president of Mercy Hospital in Rogers, also provided Talk Business & Politics with an update on the $133 million expansion to the hospital. Pianalto said the 7-story tower and major hospital expansion will officially open next month with the blessing and celebration slated for Oct. 21.

He said the hospital addition will cost roughly $133 million, which is about $15 million over budget in part because of additional equipment and some plan modifications for added space. He said the project is also about 90 days behind schedule, which he said was mostly from days lost to high winds that rendered the crane inoperable on the project more than 30 days over the past two years. Pianalto said additional changes also lengthened the project timeline.

“We are excited to get the new hospital tower open next month. It will open in stages beginning Oct. 21. Because we have to move some of the departments around the staged opening was required,” he said.

In the new tower, the bulk of the space on floors 2 through 5 will be patient rooms. Pianalto said there are 72 new rooms added in the first stage. He said the 6th and 7th floors are being left open and will be finished as demand dictates. When the final two floors are opened as patient rooms the tower will have added 142 new rooms to the hospital, more than doubling its size.

Pianalto said cardiology, as well as the women, babies and neonatal nursery departments, will be housed in the new tower along with the hospital pharmacy and lab. He said the intensive care unit will be on the 4th floor of the new facility.

He said Mercy’s five-year plan to invest $277 million in Northwest Arkansas involved adding about 100 doctors and roughly 1,000 new support staff. He said about 800 of that support staff has been hired and a majority of the doctors. He said when the 63,000-square-foot clinic in Springdale ramps up over the next year, Mercy will likely have met the 100 new doctor goal.

Dr. Steve Goss, president of Mercy Clinics, said he’s always looking to hire doctors, expansion or not. He said with the new Springdale clinic being the last of the seven clinics in the 5-year plan, Mercy will again study the future needs of the community. Pianalto told Talk Business & Politics he recruited Dr. Larry Schemel to Mercy about five years ago on the promise there would be a Mercy Clinic in Springdale.

“The future is here,” Goss said.

Schemel told Talk Business & Politics he has been practicing family medicine in Springdale for 20 years and has witnessed the city’s exponential growth in that time. He said the new 24-hour emergency room at Mercy Springdale will be busy.

“When I moved to Springdale we had 35,000 people, one hospital and one emergency room. Until recently, that’s still all we had in Springdale. This new clinic will provide room for growth for more providers to join me here,” he said.

Dr. Mark Shelnutt, a recent graduate of Mercy Hospital’s Graduate Residency program in Internal Medicine, will join Schemel at the Springdale clinic. Goss said this is a success story from the residency program which began three years ago. He said Dr. Shelnutt was in the first class and has chosen to stay in the region post-graduation and begin his internal medicine practice in Springdale.

Goss said there were seven doctors in the inaugural residency program and two others have joined the Veteran’s Hospital in Fayetteville, so nearly half the class stayed local. Goss said he also recruited Dr. Daniel Paul, a pulmonology specialist from Kansas City, to Springdale. Dr. Kiran Kurithety, a cardiologist from Texarkana, is also joining the Springdale clinic and will also practice in Rogers.

Goss said Dr. Steven Moon, a long-time neurologist at Mercy, would work at the Springdale clinic until his retirement in December. Goss said he is recruiting for a replacement and would gladly hire five neurologists if could find them.

Goss said with the seventh clinic now open, the focus will be on filling out staffing as needed. He said Mercy’s researchers will begin assessing needs for the future. He said roughly 10% of the Mercy’s patients are new as Mercy Northwest grows its footprint. He said the Mercy-Go-Health Clinic will open across the street from the large Springdale clinic along Elm Springs Road in Springdale in the coming weeks. This will serve drop-in, urgent care needs.

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