Fort Smith Begins Work on Orthopedic Hospital

September 18, 2012

A crane removes the top piece of rusted steel

from the old structure as deconstruction begins

on the site at 79th and Phoenix Avenue.

The new hospital is expected to be complete in two years.



Mercy Board Chairman Dick Hahn and Dr. Greg Jones

watch as work begins again on the site.



Mercy Hospital Fort Smith President Ryan Gehrig

addresses the crowd at the celebration to kickoff

construction of the new Mercy Orthopedic Hospital.

FORT SMITH, Ark. - Eyesore, no more. The existing steel structure at the Mercy River Valley campus is coming down and in approximately two years a $42 million, 24-bed orthopedic hospital will stand in its place.

Previous owners halted construction in May 2009 on the current structure at 3501 W.E. Knight Drive. Mercy acquired the campus in February 2011 and announced plans last August to do initial planning and design work on the site. This work led Mercy to the decision to start from scratch.

“It’s been three years since this project stopped, and we need to start fresh to incorporate design elements important to our patients, community and Mercy. We only have one shot at this, and we want to get it right,” said Ryan Bader, Mercy planning, design and construction manager. “It will also give us the opportunity to create additional shell space, allowing for future growth to serve the community for years to come.”

It will take two to three months to tear down the existing steel and reset the foundation. During this time, Mercy will work with physicians, clinical staff and a community advisory group to finalize the plans for the new hospital. The focus will be on taking care of adults who need joint replacement surgery but are otherwise healthy. From pre-surgical consultation to post-surgical rehab, patients will get streamlined service to help them return to their busy lives as soon as possible.

“This hospital is the final piece of the puzzle at the Mercy River Valley musculoskeletal campus,” said Dr. Keith Bolyard, Mercy medical director of orthopedic services. “We can already take care of kids, injuries, work-related accidents and recreational athletes at this location. Now, we can serve baby boomers in need of inpatient procedures like knee, hip and shoulder replacements. A facility of this caliber will also help us attract more top-notch orthopedic surgeons who will continue to take care of our community as it ages.”

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are an estimated 76 million strong – about 26 percent of the population. As these Americans age and enjoy longer life spans, the need for orthopedic services is projected to increase dramatically. Health care think tank Sg2 estimates the number of inpatient orthopedic procedures done in Arkansas alone will increase 22 percent by 2019.

“We are creating a destination for the kind of orthopedic care that will be in demand in the near future,” said Ryan Gehrig, president of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. “There will also be a clear economic impact on the community. We estimate the new hospital will employ 100 to 125 people when it’s complete, and that’s not including the construction work over the next two years.”

Mercy Orthopedic Hospital is part of Mercy’s $192 million community master plan. The plan is designed to recruit and retain doctors, build infrastructure and upgrade technology over the next seven years. The goal is to ensure patients can stay close to home for medical care instead of having to travel out of the community for services.

Mercy Fort Smith includes the 373-bed Mercy Hospital as well as critical access hospitals in Paris, Waldron and Ozark. It also includes Mercy Clinic with more than 90 providers in 19 specialties across the region. Mercy Fort Smith is part of Mercy – the nation’s sixth largest Catholic health care system.


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