Conway Regional Adding Services, Residents

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As Conway Regional Health System undertakes a $60 million capital project, it also is focusing on expanding in other areas.

“Our focus is to continue to find ways to serve the broader community,” said Matt Troup, the health system’s president and CEO. “We know there’s still a lot of need out there, particularly in the outlying areas.”

Conway Regional has been on a march to expand its services in recent years. In 2015, it bought the Vilonia Medical Clinic and renamed it Conway Regional Medical Clinic-Vilonia. In 2017, it purchased Himmler Medical Clinic in Vilonia and the two clinics were combined in 2018. Conway Regional also bought a clinic in Pottsville in 2016 and has clinics in Clinton, Conway, Greenbrier, Dardanelle, Mayflower and Russellville.

On June 1, Conway Regional began managing the former 25-bed River Valley Medical Center in Dardanelle. The hospital is now known as Dardanelle Regional Medical Center.

Troup said Conway Regional has an interim management agreement with the Yell County Board of Governors to operate the Dardanelle hospital, and he expects that “will transition into a longer term agreement. There are still a lot of things to figure out, but I’m very optimistic.”

Conway Regional’s expanded footprint has been the financial boost he hospital system needed after its crosstown competitor, Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway, opened in September 2016. The new competition resulted in Conway Regional witnessing a 25% decrease in emergency room patient volume and a 9% drop in admissions in the first year Baptist Health was operating.

In 2017, the 150-bed Conway Regional Medical Center reported an operating loss of $1.8 million on patient revenue of $153.4 million.

But Troup said Conway Regional’s growth had made up for the drop in patient volume.

In 2018, Conway Regional reported $4.4 million in operating income on $174.7 million in patient revenue.

“We have thrived in the last few years,” Troup said.

Meanwhile, a family practice residency program is due in July, and will have a total of 12 residents when it reaches full capacity. Conway Regional hopes to start an internal medicine residency program in July 2021. That program will eventually have 15 residents.

Troup said that to get the residency programs going, Conway Regional will need assistance from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “We have found them very cooperative and helpful in working with us to help train physicians,” Troup said.

Conway Regional and UAMS, though, had a different relationship in 2017, when Troup complained to Arkansas legislators that UAMS had become a competitor because it was providing emergency room and orthopedic physicians to the Baptist Health hospital in Conway.

Troup told Arkansas Business recently that the issue had been “quiet.”

“And I don’t mean that in the negative sense,” Troup said. “We all have a lot going on.”

He said he hasn’t been in talks with UAMS about adding clinical specialties to Conway Regional.

“That’s just not been a focus of ours,” Troup said. “But we have been very appreciative of their … really genuine desire to work with us in medical education.”

New Building

In September, Conway Regional held a groundbreaking for the construction of its 42,530-SF three-story medical office building, marking the first new building on the hospital campus in 18 years.

The $13 million building will provide additional clinic and physician space and should be completed in the fall. The project is part of a $60 million capital project. Other parts of the project will feature a new and expanded critical care unit, expansion of the hospital’s family practice clinic in Greenbrier and a facade. Conway Regional’s pharmacy and lab services also will be expanded.

Troup said the capital project is expected to be completed in late 2021 or the spring of 2022.