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Up to challenge.

Up To The Challenge

5-Year-Old Fort Smith Rehabilitation Hospital Faces New Competitor Across The Mountains

Since opening five years ago, Fort Smith Rehabilitation Hospital has stood alone in its region, serving most of northwest Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

An almost 100 percent occupancy rate for most of the past year.

A 40 percent increase in beds.

New programs.

Fort Smith Rehabilitation is on a roll.

But beginning this week, there will be some competition.

Northwest Arkansas Rehabilitation Hospital, built at a cost of $9.2 million, opened its doors Monday in the North Hills Medical Park at Fayetteville.

Fifteen patients were expected to check into the 60-bed, state-of-the-art facility.

Hospital officials believe many northwest Arkansas patients, who normally would have traveled the 60 miles to Fort Smith, will stay close to home.

"The mountains are a natural barrier," says Karen Burgess, a spokeswoman for Northwest Arkansas Rehabilitation Hospital. "Prior to our opening, patients left the area to go to Fort Smith, Tulsa, Denver, Missouri or Little Rock.

"We're finding that referral services are happy to have someplace more convenient. It's difficult for patients and for family members [to travel]."

That's not to say Fort Smith cannot weather the competition.

Administrators there have built a solid foundation.

During the past year, the hospital increased its licensed bed capacity from 54 to 76 beds and remained full many weeks.

Built in November 1986, Fort Smith Rehabilitation is a two-story facility located across from -- but not associated with -- Sparks Regional Medical Center.

Making Money

Fort Smith Rehabilitation ranks 56th on the Arkansas Business list of the state's hospitals.

With 1990 revenues of $17,678,728 and a healthy return on revenues of 6.85 percent, the facility showed a net income of $1,210,256 last year.

It recently opened two outpatient programs and passed its Joint Commission Accreditation Hospitals Organization (JCAHO) survey with a special commendation.

A ventilator weaning program, which slowly weans patients who are dependent on ventilators, and a pediatrics rehabilitation program will begin this fall.

More importantly, say hospital officials, is accreditation for two specialty programs involving spinal cord and head injuries.

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), which has stringent guidelines, certified the programs.

According to Stan Johnson, administrator and chief executive officer at Fort Smith Rehabilitation, they are the only two such programs in Arkansas.

"Getting specialty designation is difficult," Johnson says. "We've had the programs since we opened, but this was the first time we went after special accreditation."

Johnson began his current job 16 months ago, although he has worked much longer for the hospital's parent company.

Fort Smith Rehabilitation is owned by Rehab Hospital Services Corp., the largest provider of comprehensive physical and medical rehabilitation services in the nation.

The corporation owns 28 hospitals, two transitional living centers, 12 managed rehabilitation units and two managed services units in acute-care hospitals.

It also contracts out with nursing homes to handle their rehabilitation programs.

The Fort Smith facility is one of the company's stars. It was presented the company's special achievement award in 1990 for a second consecutive year.

"We've been very, very fortunate," Johnson says. "The country is seeing the value of physical rehabilitation."

Johnson says industries and businesses are counting on rehabilitation centers to prevent injuries that could lead to expensive workmen's compensation cases.

Hot Topic

Johnson says about 25 percent of the hospital's business comes from workmen's compensation cases, and that percentage is rising.

"The number of cases is unbelievable," he says. "It's millions and millions of dollars just in the state of Arkansas.

"The issue for everybody, including the employee, is to get back to work in a productive mode and a safe manner. Increasingly, we're getting calls asking us to help analyze work sites."

An insurance company study found that every dollar spent on rehabilitation reduced workmen's compensation expenditures by $30.

Preventive measures help, Johnson says.

Still, "dollarwise that's not much of a business for us," he says, since it is much cheaper to survey a site than to treat someone with a back injury.

Johnson refers to it as industrial medicine.

Doctors go to the site, evaluate work stations and make recommendations on how to reduce injuries and stress.

Fort Smith Rehabilitation operates what are known as outpatient-work hardening programs in Fort Smith and Texarkana.

According to a hospital spokeswoman, Mitzi Crabtree, five additional sites have been targeted for future programs. Johnson says at least two of the programs are scheduled to begin this year.

As Fort Smith Rehabilitation continues to grow, it must do so with one eye peering over the Boston Mountains.

"We may be the only rehab in Fort Smith, but we are aware there are several in the state and a new one opening in Fayetteville," Johnson says.

PHOTO : GOING STRONG: Fort Smith Rehabilitation Hospital has had an almost 100 percent occupancy rate during the past year. It boasts the state's only CARF-accredited program for head and spinal cord injuries.

Kane Webb Arkansas Business Staff
COPYRIGHT 1991 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Fort Smith Rehabilitation Hospital
Author:Webb, Kane
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Aug 5, 1991
Words:831
Previous Article:A Pointe to make.
Next Article:Open for business.
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