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story.lead_photo.caption Gary Bebow, CEO of White River Health System (center with scissors), prepares to cut the ribbon during the recent WRMC Medical Complex Emergency Room open house. The Satellite Emergency Room, the first in the state of Arkansas, will officially transition to a 24/7 care facility on Monday. - Photo by Submitted

CHEROKEE VILLAGE — In 2005, White River Medical Center established an urgent-care facility in the northern part of Sharp County to accommodate the after-hour medical needs of residents. Since then, demand for the services has risen, and the medical center has responded by transforming its urgent-care facility in Cherokee Village into a full satellite emergency room for White River Medical Center.

The WRMC Medical Complex ER will open Monday, giving patients 24/7 access to physicians; trauma care through the Arkansas Trauma Network; stroke care through the Arkansas Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support; and laboratory and diagnostic capabilities, such as X-rays, CT scans, ultrasound technology and cardiac monitoring.

The emergency room has a triage room, seven exam rooms, a trauma room and a dedicated ambulance entrance.

Robert Wright, associate administrator of physician services for WRMC, said the White River Health System had been monitoring numbers at the urgent-care facility in order to evaluate when a full emergency room would be necessary.

“Year after year, we’ve seen our numbers increase, and last year it hit the point where we decided to move forward,” he said.

Wright said the urgent-care facility was built with emergency-room specs; but some modifications had to be made, as those regulations changed from the time the building was constructed. Additionally, the medical center had to hire more people to round out the staff as it transitions from providing urgent care to offering emergency-room services.

“We hired about 22 additional staff members, and hopefully, that will have to go up,” Wright said.

The WRMC Medical Complex ER will be the first satellite ER in the state, Wright said. Satellite ERs are present in rural areas of other states, allowing patients to receive immediate emergency medical care and either be treated and discharged, or stabilized and transferred to a larger hospital.

The urgent-care clinic was open from 5-11 p.m. weekdays and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekends, but the emergency room will be open all day every day.

“We will be closing the clinic at 11 p.m. Sunday night (tonight) and reopening at 7 a.m. Monday as an emergency room,” Wright said.

On Tuesday, community members had a chance to tour the facility and meet its staff. Wright said the turnout was encouraging, and it was good to see the support for the new emergency room.

“I was humbled,” Wright said. “It was overwhelming. I think people were pleasantly surprised.”

In addition to caring for current residents, the presence of a satellite emergency room may help people decide to move to the northern part of Sharp County, knowing that 24/7 medical assistance is available.

“As promised, we are creating a gateway that allows the residents of Sharp County and surrounding areas to receive quality emergency medical care closer to home,” Gary Bebow, CEO of the White River Health System, said in a press release. “Pairing the ER with the primary and specialty clinics currently at the WRMC Medical Complex allows us to improve the continuum of care for our patients.”

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or

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