To keep up with growth, Mercy to invest $500M in Northwest Arkansas

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,573 views 

An architectural rendering of a Mercy cancer center. It will be part of the health system's $500 million phase two expansion in Northwest Arkansas.

St. Louis-based health system Mercy will invest $500 million in the second phase of its healthcare expansion in Northwest Arkansas.

According to a news release Tuesday (July 19), phase two’s projects will include a state-of-the-art cancer center, emergency department and isolation room expansion, additional clinic locations, more outpatient care facilities and hiring more than 100 primary care physicians and specialists. That will nearly double the current number.

Mercy spokesman Nate Kuester said the cancer center site is to be determined.

“We are looking at multiple locations, including on or around the Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas property [in Rogers],” he said.

Mercy’s $500 million investment brings its total commitment to Northwest Arkansas to almost $1 billion in less than a decade. In 2016, Mercy announced the $300 million phase one expansion, which included a 275,000-square-foot patient tower in Rogers, 1,000 new healthcare jobs and primary care and specialty clinics in Benton and Washington counties.

“Phase two advances Mercy’s long-standing commitment to a growing Northwest Arkansas community and how we better serve patients in the way they want to experience personalized health care, close to home,” Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Arkansas, said in a statement. “This is also a continuation of our dedication to low-cost, high-quality care, a value we have provided Arkansas families and businesses for decades.”

Specifics of the $500 million investment include:

  • A state-of-the-art cancer center
  • Hiring more than 100 primary care physicians and specialists
  • An expanded emergency department
  • An expansion of isolation rooms
  • Building out the top floors of the hospital to increase the number of patient beds to nearly 400
  • New clinic locations
  • Expanded services in primary care, neuroscience, emergency, women’s and children’s, orthopedics, gastroenterology and behavioral health
  • Expanded ambulatory offerings to include urgent care, infusion and imaging

Mercy officials say the resources are needed to keep up with the region’s growth.

“We have been planning to add a comprehensive cancer center in Northwest Arkansas for many years,” Scott Cooper, president of Mercy Clinic Northwest Arkansas, said in the release. “Everyone has been affected by cancer in some way, and we need more cancer care resources in the region. Mercy provides faith-based, compassionate care close to home, so Northwest Arkansas patients have the support of family and friends they need when receiving care.”

Mercy’s recently completed projects in Arkansas include:

  • A $141 million, seven-story hospital tower in Rogers that provides space for expanded neonatal care, the McMillon Family Heart Unit, additional pediatric care and more
  • A multispecialty clinic in Springdale with a 24-hour ER
  • Six clinics in Northwest Arkansas • A 22-bed dedicated orthopedic and spine unit
  • A new inpatient rehabilitation unit
  • Expanded neurology care for patients in both Northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith
  • A $162.5 million emergency room and intensive care unit expansion is underway in Fort Smith (expected completion date in late 2024)
  • A rehabilitation hospital in Fort Smith
  • A $42 million orthopedic hospital in Fort Smith, featuring 24 beds and 24-hour patient care

“Mercy continues to honor the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy, who arrived in Arkansas in 1850 to care for the sick and poor, by expanding access to health care in our region,” said Eric Pianalto, chief strategic growth officer for Mercy Arkansas. “My new role in strategic growth gives me the exciting opportunity to work with our leadership team to expand hospital services, clinic locations and recruit the primary care and specialty physicians we need to meet the growing demands of Mercy’s Arkansas communities.”

Mercy said it would pursue philanthropic partnerships to complement the health system’s $500 million investment. Pianalto said Mercy’s funding will come from long-term operations and grants.

“Community support is extremely valuable for plans like this,” said Clark Ellison, vice president of Mercy Health Foundation in Northwest Arkansas. “Mercy will pursue philanthropic partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and friends, and together we will further enhance community access to state-of-the-art equipment, technology and programs for families across the region.

“This initiative is a transformational opportunity that we believe the community will want to support. So, we welcome additional contributions that will help us meet the needs of the community even beyond what is currently planned.”