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Arkansas Children’s launching $318 million expansion

 The Arkansas Children's campus in Little Rock is seen in this file photo from August 2022.
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
The Arkansas Children's campus in Little Rock is seen in this file photo from August 2022.

The state’s largest pediatric health system is launching a new expansion project, adding hundreds more doctors, team members and care programs to its existing infrastructure.

Arkansas Children’s is preparing to embark on an eight-year, $318 million project. The system’s two facilities in Little Rock and Springdale will both see renovations and new construction as part of the endeavor.

Speaking with KUAR News, Arkansas Children’s President and CEO Marcy Doderer said it’s the result of a strategic planning process first begun in the summer of 2020.

“For the last year, we’ve really been trying to test the volume theories, the growth theories to understand how many more kids are really needing access to pediatric facilities… and then built that into a long-range plan of growth for all of our campuses, thinking about how we can be more accessible and better meet the needs of the kids in Arkansas,” Doderer said.

Designs are still being finalized, but as of now the project is expected to include 265,000 square feet of new space as well as renovations encompassing 170,000 square feet.

Perhaps the most visible change to the Little Rock facility will be a new ambulatory services center. That will be built on what’s currently a vacant lot at the corner of 10th Street and Children's Way, and connected to Arkansas Children’s main building.

Doderer says they’re approaching renovations to their Little Rock campus with an eye toward healthcare trends, which is shifting more toward outpatient services for both children and adults.

“Our current facility is designed to really lean heavily towards the inpatient side and we’ll continue to invest in that space, but we also want to add additional outpatient services space… and really craft a place where kids can get outpatient surgery, outpatient clinic care, outpatient laboratory services, all in a new and contemporary space,” she said.

In Northwest Arkansas, Doderer says the boom in population growth necessitates an expansion to Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale, which first opened in 2018.

“And we knew when we opened that we weren't building the only size for a children’s hospital in Northwest Arkansas, we were right-sizing to the community,” she said.

Doderer says ultimately the goal is to help prevent children from having to leave the state for treatment, whether that stems from a lack of specialists or from too much demand for their existing services.

“It will be a much more approachable building, designed so that families feel really comfortable walking in,” she said. “A space that is designed with children and families in mind, to ensure they feel calm and comfortable as they enter what can be a very scary place, a hospital.”

According to a news release, more details on the expansion project will be released in the fall.

Daniel Breen is News Director for UA Little Rock Public Radio.