Officials note impact of $21 million new rehab facility under construction in Fort Smith

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,252 views 

A little cold, a little rain, a little mud did not stop Mercy Fort Smith from breaking ground Tuesday (Feb. 12) on the the 52,967-square-foot Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital Fort Smith to be located at Chaffee Crossing.

Dignitaries from Mercy, Kindred Healthcare and Arkansas Colleges of Health Education were on hand to raise shovels and ask for blessing of the new 40-bed hospital that is expected to cost about $21 million. Mercy Fort Smith is partnering with Louisville, Ky.-based Kindred Healthcare to build the rehabilitation hospital on land donated by ACHE. The facility will be next to the Arkansas College of Osteopathic Medicine on the ACHE campus and serve as a teaching site for students in ACHE’s School of Occupational Therapy and School of Physical Therapy, press information provided by Mercy said.

“The power of this one woman (Catherine McAuley) changed the world by giving hope to others. As we continue her legacy, we celebrate this new hospital that will change the lives of individuals for years and decades to come by giving hope,” said Juli Stec, vice president of operations for Mercy Hospital Fort Smith.

The new hospital will care for adults recovering from conditions such as stroke, neurological disease, injury to the brain or spinal cord and other debilitating illnesses or injuries. It will feature all private rooms; a secured brain injury unit with private dining and therapy gym; large interdisciplinary gyms; transitional living apartment, designed to simulate a residential apartment; therapeutic courtyard with golf, pickle ball and corn hole; specially designed rooms to treat dialysis patients; and specialty programs dedicated to neuro, stroke, brain injury and amputation.

Though Mercy operates an inpatient rehabilitation facility within Mercy Hospital Fort Smith, 7301 Rogers Ave., the new facility will be able to do much more, Stec said.

“We are excited about this opportunity for Mercy Fort Smith to partner with Kindred in the continued provision of exceptional rehabilitative care to patients throughout the region,” she said. “And as our partnership with ACHE continues to grow, the new hospital will provide clinical training opportunities for their physical and occupational therapy students. The new state-of-the-art facility will truly be a destination rehabilitation hospital for patients throughout the region, providing unique, customized programs to meet the needs of each and every patient.”

Kindred Healthcare will manage day-to-day operations of the hospital, which is expected to open in April 2021. This is the fourth joint venture partnership between Kindred and Mercy.

“Kindred and Mercy have a strong track record of success,” said Russ Bailey, chief operating officer of Kindred Rehabilitation Hospitals. Kindred and Mercy have partnerships with similar rehab hospitals in Oklahoma City, St. Louis and Springfield, Mo.

“This is an amazing location and a wonderful project that we know will provide improved patient access for rehab services to the surrounding communities of Fort Smith and help address a growing need for these types of services around the state of Arkansas,” Bailey said.

He said the unique arrangement with ACHE and its students will provide even more benefit to the region with the students developing their skills in the “ultramodern setting.” The new hospital will employ 140 at its capacity, many of which will be new jobs created for the local market, Bailey said.

“We can say with certainty that the completed building will house passionate caregivers who will change the lives of hundreds of patients each year, helping them achieve their highest level of function and returning them to the community,” he said.

ACHE donated the land for the hospital from the 430 acres it owns in Chaffee Crossing, something Kyle Parker, ACHE chief executive officer, said was a worthwhile investment.

“It was really easy to give four acres of land to this kind of project. … This is going to impact lives. You money guys sitting out here, you talk about an economic impact. This is driving money big time.”