Arkansas Children's Hospital plans $318M in expansions at Little Rock, Springdale

Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock is shown Friday, May 5, 2023. The hospital on Friday announced plans to spend almost $318 million on new construction projects at the Little Rock and Springdale locations. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Colin Murphey)

Arkansas Children’s plans nearly $318 million in expansions at its Little Rock and Springdale locations over the next eight years, the hospital said Friday.

Construction at both Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale will expand bed capacity; add an ambulatory surgery center; redesign clinical spaces to promote multidisciplinary care; and make the campuses more accessible and inviting, the hospital system’s news release said.

The plan also includes hiring more than 500 employees and adding new programs, said Marcy Doderer, system president and chief executive officer.

“Pediatric health needs are more complex than ever before and we are committed to the highest levels of access and health care quality for the children and families across the state,” Doderer said.

Last year, Arkansas Children’s served a record 169,000 children, the system said.

“Every child deserves to have timely access to great pediatric health care,” said Shannon Hendrix, chief administrator of Arkansas Children’s Northwest. “Expanded services will reach children in every corner of the state and well into the region.”

Jamie Wiggins, Arkansas Children’s chief operating officer, said it’s still early in the process and the hospital system is hiring the companies and partners for the undertaking.

“We will take our time and do this right with our team and with the community,” Wiggins said.

Polk Stanley Wilcox and Cromwell are the architects of record and Nabholz will serve as construction manager. Nabholz also worked on an expansion project for Arkansas Children’s Hospital in 1980, completed in 1982.

While planning and engineering teams are finalizing their proposals, Arkansas Children’s said the project will add about 265,000 square feet of facilities. In addition, more than 170,000 square feet of existing construction will be renovated.

The health system said it will release detailed schematics of the project this fall.

Arkansas Children’s has invested significantly in its regional clinics since 2018. It’s added capacity for specialty care in Jonesboro; a 10,250-square-foot clinic in Pine Bluff; opened Arkansas Children’s Northwest and is bringing more care spaces online in Springdale.

Doderer told employees about the latest project in a video preview during a series of town hall meetings.

Arkansas Children’s has provided cutting-edge pediatric care for more than a century, she said, as it evolved from an orphanage to a hospital and finally to a pediatric health system.

“We are building the future together in this next chapter in our story,” Doderer said. “The result will define excellence and deliver a healthier tomorrow for the children of Arkansas and the region.”

Children’s Hospital Northwest, built on 37 donated acres, opened in March 2018 as the region’s only hospital and emergency room to exclusively treat children. At 234,000 square feet, the facility opened with a pediatric surgery unit with five operating rooms; a full range of diagnostic and ancillary services; outdoor gardens; nature trails; and a helipad.

In July 2021, J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. pledged to donate $1 million a year for five years to support future expansion of the Springdale hospital. The company had donated $5 million in 2016 toward the hospital’s construction.