Friday, Dec 13, 2013
Governor Beebe's weekly column and radio address: A Stronger Health Care Infrastructure
Over the years, investments in the infrastructure of Arkansas’s health-care system have improved its quality and extended its reach. This past week alone, I participated in celebrations for three new projects that will give Arkansans easier access to better care. At a time when more of our people are getting health insurance, it’s exciting to see the advancements that Arkansas is making to provide health care that is accessible and affordable.
CARTI, originally known as Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute, has been a nonprofit provider of cancer care for nearly four decades. This week, they broke ground on a new cancer center in Little Rock. Already, CARTI has locations across the State, giving cancer patients easier availability to treatment. The new center will serve as a hub for this statewide network of facilities and clinics. The 170,000-square-foot facility will offer medical, surgical and radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology, and hematology services. Patients from throughout the South will have a destination in Central Arkansas for CARTI’s highly regarded care.
Earlier this week, I helped cut the ribbon on a new medical park in Paragould. A partnership between Arkansas Methodist Medical Center and St. Bernards , the 48-acre park will give Greene County residents access to top-quality health care in a hometown setting. The project is a perfect example of two medical providers working together to benefit the community in ways that might not have been possible on their own.
And in Jonesboro, Baptist Health System opened a new $400 million, 85-acre medical campus known as NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital and Clinic. It includes a hospital, specialty clinics, and a cancer center. This massive project brings a whole new level of medical services that reflect the rapid growth in the region.
The new hospital is a great reminder that while medical providers benefit communities primarily through their health-care services, they also contribute to local economies. All of the patients who will frequent the campus will help support the new businesses in the area. Additionally, the campus will provide jobs for more than 1,500 people. And 700 jobs were created during two-and-a-half-years of construction.
All of these new medical facilities will improve the health of our people, our communities, and our economy. And, thanks to the Arkansas Private Option, more of our people will have regular access to their services. More people will have insurance, and medical providers will see a decrease in uncompensated care costs. For example, it’s estimated that St. Bernards’ and NEA Baptist’s costs of uncompensated care will fall by $8 million annually, thanks to the private option. Going forward, those savings will help more hospitals further connect, construct, or expand to offer even better care.
There is a lot of discussion and debate about health care, but it is projects like these that show you the direct benefits good policies have for our citizens, and what is at stake for those who don’t yet have access to these services. Already being hailed as a national model, the Arkansas Private Option will continue to keep our local hospitals operating, ease the hidden tax we all pay in uncompensated care, and keep our positive momentum for better quality health care in Arkansas.