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Competition for patients means more clinics, services.

Health care continues to be undergoing great changes in northwest Arkansas. As the competition for patients heats up, area hospitals have added clinics and services in an attempt to attract more patients.

For their part, patients are getting more services offered closer to home as a result of the new clinics.

Northwest Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute in Springdale celebrated its 12th anniversary in 1997, an occasion it marked with new, state-of-the-art CAT scan technology equipment.

The new scanner, purchased at a cost of nearly $1 million, produces a three-dimensional image, helps physicians pinpoint the precise location of cancer cells in patients and helps ensure that treatment is directed to the proper spot. It's less time-consuming and more comfortable for patients, too, than older technologies.

In Rogers, Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas now includes St. Mary's Hospital, a dozen clinics and, most recently, Mercy Health Center.

Mercy Health Center is a 75,000-SF outpatient center in Bentonville. Built at a cost of $16 million, the center offers a variety of specialty services, including cardiology, family practice, pediatrics, pulmonology and surgery.

A dozen physicians are on staff at the center, which officially opened March 11.

Sobering Year at Northwest

Northwest Medical Center in Springdale experienced some sobering events, including the resignation of CEO Russ Sword, cuts in the chaplaincy program and layoffs.

Sword had promoted the idea of "centers of excellence" among the region's hospitals in an effort to eliminate duplication of services that require expensive equipment and for which the demand is relatively small. But the other hospitals rejected the idea, moving instead toward expanding their own services.

Northwest and Bates Medical Center in Bentonville merged to form Northwest Health System, but those facilities both suffered when they were excluded from the Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield network of providers. The exclusion was costly for Northwest, and, in fact, Blue Cross and Blue Shield completed a joint venture early in the year with Washington Regional and Sisters of Mercy, parent of St. Mary's and Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas.

Northwest Health has been through several rounds of layoffs although the administration has declined to say just exactly how many jobs were eliminated.

Recently, severe slashing of the chaplaincy program raised an outcry from the ministers who had been paid to provide services to the hospital and from some members of the public.

The hospital system's new CEO, Greg Stock, came on board in early December, and the system has hired auditing firm Deloitte & Touche to analyze hospital operations.

Still, everything wasn't bleak at Northwest. Among the happier events for the year was an alliance with Village Athletic Club in Rogers. The system's Center for Health and Wellness provides staffing for the club, which, in turn, pays employees' wages. The department doubled in size as a result of the agreement, which puts qualified employees in charge of exercise programs, child-care facilities and junior athletic club activities at the center.

Also, all newborn infants at Northwest are now being tested for possible hearing problems. The screening was made possible through donations from the Walton Family Foundation and First National Bank of Springdale.

Newborns are too small for some diagnostic procedures, but this screening can alert parents to possible problems. The equipment, in the form of ear muffs, is slipped onto the baby's head and monitors scan the infant's brain waves. Certain brain waves may be consistent with hearing problems.

Regional Expands Clinics

Washington Regional's CEO, Patrick D. Flynn, was named chairman of the Arkansas Hospital Association board in October, and Regional expanded many of its services and clinics. Also, Dr. Richard Roberts was named medical director of Health Partners, Regional's physician-hospital organization.

This year, Fayetteville City Hospital, a part of the Regional system, was named among the top nursing homes in Arkansas. The 1998 "Inside Guide to America's Nursing Homes" ranked Fayetteville City Hospital 36th in the state and first in Washington County, based on government inspections and surveys of certified nursing homes.

The facility was recognized as the 1997 Facility of the Year by the National Association of Geriatric Nursing Assistants. A nomination for the award requires a demonstrated commitment to recognizing nursing assistants as professionals and enhancing the role of nursing assistants through their commitment to personal and professional development. City Hospital met those goals by providing in-service training programs, encouraging involvement in facility operations and seeking suggestions from the nursing assistants.

Regional's new Fayetteville Dialysis Clinic opened in November, replacing a 23-year-old facility on the hospital grounds. Regional Kidney Centers is the parent system and includes a clinic at Hidden Springs. Additionally, a third dialysis clinic is scheduled to open in mid-June in Siloam Springs.

Regional Wound Care Center opened last spring, part of a national network of wound-care centers operated by Curative Health Services. Just a few months after opening, the center was rated No. 1 in the Southwest region for its 94 percent healing rate.

Wound-care centers offer comprehensive care for people with chronic, nonhealing wounds as a result of diabetes, pressure ulcers or circulatory problems and other causes.

Asthma sufferers got some relief from the Regional Asthma Center, which opened last fall to provide education. The idea is to help stop asthma attacks before they start and to help patients have more control over their daily lives. The program provides individualized treatment plans for patients, education about asthma triggers, how to allergy-proof homes and how to use various equipment needed by asthma. patients.
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Title Annotation:Arkansas
Author:May, Patricia
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 20, 1998
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