Hot Springs hospitals talk changes

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published September 29, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 27, 2013 at 2:10 p.m.
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HOT SPRINGS — Two health care organizations that once looked at a merger for their hospitals in Hot Springs made separate announcements this week about plans for the future.

In an announcement dated Wednesday, officials from National Park Medical Center said preparations have begun on 9 acres adjacent to the hospital for what they called “key expansion initiatives” that should be completed by the end of 2014.

Jerry Mabry, Arkansas market president for Capella Heathcare, announced plans to build a large and self-contained cardiology center, along with facilities for medical imaging, emergency services, outpatient services, surgery and women’s services, and he said more would be coming.

Mandy Golleher, director of marketing and volunteer services for NPMC, said the projects will reflect an investment of $40 million to $45 million when all stages are completed.

Mabry also announced that the current hospital will also undergo updates and improvements and build a new chapel.

“Our mission is to ensure the success of this hospital, and our vision has not changed,” Mabry said.

On the same day, Mercy Health System in Chesterfield, Mo., which operates Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs, announced that corporate officials are in discussions about a possible transfer of the Hot Springs hospital, once known as St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, to Catholic Health Initiatives, a nonprofit, faith-based health care system.

In a statement, Barb Meyer, vice president of communications for Mercy Health System, said St. Vincent Health Systems of Little Rock, a division of Catholic Health Initiatives that operates 87 hospitals in 18 states, has made a formal bid for Mercy Hot Springs, and both sides are working “toward a letter of intent.”

For more than a year, Mercy tried to work out a transfer of Mercy Hot Springs to

Capella, but talks fell through after opposition by the Catholic Church in Arkansas and Rome. The proposal also faced opposition from the Federal Trade Commission, according to published reports.

In July, Mercy issued a statement that said the corporation would continue to seek a buyer for the Hot Springs hospital and clinics because the facilities were losing money.

Officials at Mercy Hospital in Hot Springs and at St. Vincent Health System in Little Rock would not comment on the announcement from Mercy Health, with local spokesmen referring questions to the corporate headquarters of Mercy and Catholic Health Initiatives, which is in Englewood, Colo.

According to information made available by CHI, the system is the nation’s third-largest faith-based health system with annual revenues of more than $12 billion and 85,500 employees.

CHI operations nationally provided more than “$715 million in charity care and community benefits, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research.” The continuation of Mercy Hospital’s charity care programs was a major concern about the transfer to Capella, according to comments from Bishop Anthony Taylor, head of the Diocese of Little Rock and the Catholic Church in Arkansas.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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