$162 million expansion of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith to begin in 2022

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 3,021 views 

Rendering of expanded emergency room and ICU space at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith.

Mercy Hospital Fort Smith will begin construction on a $162 million expansion of its emergency room and intensive care unit in early 2022 with completion estimated in 2024. The project also includes adding more parking at the hospital.

The project is part of several recent projects that continue to expand Mercy’s operations in the Fort Smith region, information released by Mercy Wednesday (June 30) said.

The Fort Smith hospital will expand its emergency room from 29 to 50 rooms and increase ICU capacity from 38 to 64. Multilevel parking also will add 140 parking spaces to accommodate the expansion with parking closer to the new emergency room entrance.

“The new Emergency Department will allow for about 25,000 more patient visits per year and include special considerations for infectious disease as well as behavioral health patients,” a news release said.

Dr. Paul Bean, chief of medical affairs at Mercy Fort Smith, said ER and ICU expansion will build on expanded care in the community.

“It will increase our ability to care for more patients and will actually improve the care we provide,” Bean said. “It will allow us to expand the services that we provide, which will allow patients to stay in Fort Smith for the care they need.”

Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith, said that although theemergency room has served the hospital well over the years, it is not designed to handle the volume, acuity or type of patients seen today. The increase in ICU beds will more than double the number of rooms capable of supporting ventilators. The building automation system is designed to allow for floors or pods to be turned into isolation areas as needed.

“Everything about this expansion will enhance our ability to serve our community,” said Debbie Hewett, director of critical care services at Mercy Fort Smith. “Not only will we be increasing our capacity to better serve our community, but patients and families will be more comfortable in the larger, state-of-the-art rooms with adequate space for family while they visit, whether in the patient room or in one of two family/visitor lounges on each floor.”

A new garage and lower-level emergency department entry will be added to allow for dealing with a mass casualty event and quick set-up for pandemic response. The proximity for the new emergency room to the main entry will provide separation of non-pandemic from pandemic-related patients without interruption to normal operations, the news release said.

Rendering of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith expansion to include parking space changes.

“We have a talented group of clinicians and realize that we must equip them with the appropriate space and tools to provide high-quality care and deliver a transformative health care experience,” said Bobbie Lamb, director of emergency services at Mercy Fort Smith. “Recognizing that we must grow with our community, we are embarking on an exciting journey, just like the Sisters of Mercy before us. The new department will promote innovative health care while also providing a safer environment for the high-risk patient and vulnerable populations.”

A new five-room area for behavioral health patients will be completely secured and designed for patient and co-worker safety. Additional plans include a 22-bed observation unit requiring no renovation in the former ICU space; helipad relocation that will improve the patient transport process; and new gift shop and meeting room space.

Mercy projects in 2021 include:
• June – opening of Mercy Rehabilitation Hospital Fort Smith, a 50-bed facility at 6700 Chad Colley Blvd.;
• July– start two new residency programs in family medicine and internal medicine, bringing in a total of 48 new doctors to Mercy over the next three years;
• August – open first school-based clinic in Fort Smith, located at Darby Junior High, 1420 N. H St.; and
• Early fall – open the First Ronald McDonald House behind Mercy Fort Smith Labor & Delivery, developed by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkoma to help Mercy assist up to 15 families being served by its level IIIA NICU.

Groundbreaking for the emergency room and ICU expansion is expected in early 2022, with construction expected to last just over two years. Plans are being developed to minimize the impact to Mercy patients during the construction process, the news release said.