Conway Regional opens expansion

by Donna Lampkin Stephens

With the recently opened expansion of Conway Regional Medical Center, hospital administrators and board members from across the country will be descending on Conway to see the absolute latest in operating room technology.

Lori Ross, marketing director for Conway Regional, said Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies that provided much of the new OR equipment, will use the medical center as a show site for other hospital clients across the country.

“State-of-the-art is almost an understatement,” she said. “We have the latest equipment in tools needed. It’s amazing to have this level of technology and advanced surgical equipment right here in Conway.”

The first surgery in the new facility took place July 16. Not surprisingly, the $32-million, 95,000-square-foot renovation and expansion, which includes a surgical services department and expanded obstetrics facility, has drawn rave reviews.

“Physicians and staff — it’s been, ‘Wow,’” Ross said. “It is amazing. It’s just massive. That’s the first impression a lot of people get — just the massive size of it.”

Among the general comments CRMC officials have received from staff and physicians:

• “The technology is wonderful — the booms, the lights, the high-def monitors are all just amazing.”

• “Patient flow is much better in this new, spacious area.”

According to a CRMC fact sheet, the new surgery department can more easily accommodate medical technology such as high definition, digital imaging and advanced surgery, such as minimally invasive and robotic surgery.

As surgical techniques and equipment have evolved over the years, surgery has become more minimally invasive, and the improved equipment — such as CRMC’s $1.8 million da Vinci Surgical System — requires a different type of space, Ross explained.

“Years ago, you could do a lot of things in a small room,” she said. “Our (new) smallest OR now is considerably larger than our largest OR was in the old space.”

She said the largest operating room now is more than 900 square feet.

“Jim Lambert (president and CEO of CRMC) and others have joked that it’s bigger than their first apartment,” Ross said, adding that the size and flexibility of the rooms will allow Conway Regional to accommodate 50 percent more patient surgeries over time.

In fact, the sheer size of the expansion is necessitating extra signage to direct people through the space.

As construction was ongoing, Lambert said: “This project will address two areas of great importance to our community and physicians — additional space for obstetrics and expanded surgical suites. Surgery has changed dramatically in the last 25 years since our current OR was built. Today we use more technology and equipment, so we need to build a larger space that will hopefully carry us through another 25 years of providing excellent healthcare to this community.”

Construction on the project — the most financially ambitious in the history of the medical center — took nearly two years and was completed in June. Nabholz Construction was the general contractor.

The two-story addition will have the capacity to expand to a height of four stories, when needed, in the future.

Construction costs totaled $21 million, with another $5.7 million for new equipment. The total square footage includes an 85,000-square-foot addition with 10,000 square feet of renovated space. The expansion includes eight operating rooms, including one for future use, a preoperative holding area, post-anesthesia care unit, central sterile processing and storage, same-day surgery area and eight new obstetrics rooms.

The $32-million financial plan included a bond issue, the use of reserves and a $2-million fundraising goal that has almost been met.

“We’re just a little over $1.8 million,” Ross said in early August. “We are very close to our goal.  We’ve still got grant requests out. We feel pretty confident that we’ll reach that goal.”

Those wishing to contribute to the ONE Campaign may visit or contact the Conway Regional Health Foundation office at 501.513.5778.

“Our campaign is going on for three years,” Ross said. “People can pay out their pledge over that period of time.”