Dove Season 2016

Groundbreaking marks new beginning for health care in Crittenden County

Baptist officials eye early- to- mid- 2018 opening

The days of having to drive across the bridge to Memphis to receive health care are about to become a thing of the past.

Officials from Crittenden County and Baptist Memorial Health Care broke ground Wednesday on a new $25 million hospital in West Memphis.

The new 50,000 square foot facility, which is expected to open in early-tomid 2018, will feature 20 beds and will include an emergency room, cancer services, imaging and diagnostics, and other services.

A packed house numbering about 120 were on hand at the Arkansas Welcome Center to celebrate the big day.

“Today begins the process of fulfilling a promise we made to you to build a hospital you could be proud of and you can rely on to provide high quality health care,” said Brian Welton CEO and Administrator of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Crittenden County.”

The county has been without a hospital since Crittenden Regional Hospital declared bankruptcy and closed in 2014.

Welton said many people thought it wasn’t feasible to have a hospital in West Memphis, but Baptist had a different view.

“It is time to change that,” Welton said. “There really is no reason why members of this community should have to drive across the bridge to receive high quality care from a trusted health care provider. This is an important piece of providing convenient high quality health care, and with access right off Seventh Street and I-40 we will be able to improve access and quality of our services here.”

Baptist Memorial Health Care President and CEO Jason Little promised that the new facility would be a place that the community will be proud of.

“We’ve designed this hospital to provide the latest and greatest features,” Little said. “I don’t want anybody in this room to get sick. But when you are I hope you will pack this hospital the same way you have packed this room. It means so much that you have trusted us with this responsibility with your

loved ones and your neighbors. We are committed to your community and we look forward to lots of successful years together.”

Baptist is the largest health care provider in the mid south with 17 hospitals in the region and over 2000 beds.

Officials project that 25,000 patients will use the ER at the West Memphis facility.

County Judge Woody Wheeless thanked residents for making the hospital a reality.

The cost to build the hospital is being supported by a one cent sales tax which will generate $30 million over the next five years.

“If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t be having this ceremony,” Wheeless said. “You voters share that credit. You passed the tax not once, you passed that tax twice by well over 80 percent.”

Wheeless said the county has found a strong partner in Baptist.

“I believe we are putting in place quality health care to serve our community for many years to come,” Wheeless said. “Our partnership with Baptist will be strong and we will have the best health care possible to our county.”

By Mark Randall