Baptist Health may announce an expansion into the Faulkner County area within 30 days, though the administration isn’t ready to give details as to where or what that expansion will be.
"We were approached by a group of physicians about two years ago from the Conway area, and we have been in discussion with them about expanding access to healthcare in that area," Baptist Health spokesperson Mark Lowman said on Monday.
"We’ve worked with the local physicians over a period of time, and we’re evaluating what best course will be. The specifics are still under study, but we would hope to have that (study) completed in the next 30 days or so."
An official announcement, Lowman said, should be forthcoming at the end of the study.
Some sort of new medical facility in Conway has been discussed for several years. In 2008 a partnership of local physicians intending to build what was then to be called "Central Heart and Surgical Hospital" on a piece of land at Exchange Ave. and United Drive met with Conway Regional Medical Center administrators.
Though the meeting was held in secret, Conway Regional administrators said that the goal was to discuss co-ordination with the new hospital to avoid duplication of services and find what Dr. Alan Lucas of Conway Regional called "common ground" in the ultimate goal of providing as many local medical services as possible.
Also in 2008, new hospital investor Dr. Michael Stanton said that Texas-based Cirrus Health, L.P. would be providing funding for the new venture.
In 2009, a corporation called Conway C3D, L.P. purchased land on United Drive, a 1,500-foot piece of roadway running from Exchange Avenue along the southern side of Caldwell Toyota, from 105 Development Group, LLC for about $2.5 million.
In 2012, the same parcel of United Drive land was sold by Conway C3D, L.P., to a corporation called Avere ConwayRE, L.L.C. for about $5.85 million, according to public documents. Both Conway C3D, L.P., and Avere ConwayRE, L.L.C. were incorporated in Arkansas by Donald Wilson, CEO of Cirrus Health, L.P., Chairman and Founder of Avere Equity Advisors, L.L.C., and Chairman of Avere Real Estate, L.L.C.
Cirrus Health "engages in the development, acquisition, and management of physician-owned ambulatory surgery centers and short-stay hospitals," according to an online company profile.
Avere Equity Advisors provides "healthcare delivery evaluations," "alignment of services between operators and physicians" and "invest(ment) (of) capital to yield risk-adjusted returns" to investors, according to its website.
Avere Real Estate "focuses its efforts in the development of healthcare integrated medical office buildings and person-directed elder living communities the development of healthcare integrated medical office buildings and person-directed elder living communities," according to its website. (Avere is an Italian verb meaning "to own" or "to obtain.")
Listed among Avere Real Estate projects under development on its website are a 40,000-square-foot "medical office building" at 655 United Drive, and a much more ambitious 200,000 square-foot, multi-building, 96-bed, hospital at 635 United Drive.
Also, the Conway Planning Commission voted in July to recommend a zoning variance on United Drive "to allow a hospital driveway onto a non-collector street."
Planning Department officials said on Monday that they’d prefer further details of the United Drive development to be released by its developer, but one city planner did say that this developer and its design team "have been a very effective partner with this office and the city in putting this together."
Lowman declined to comment on Monday as to whether Baptist Health’s expected announcement about expanding into the area has anything to do with the United Drive development.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)