Groundbreaking Marks Major Expansion to UAMS Medical Center

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) officials, employees and supporters today heralded a new era in Arkansas health care with a groundbreaking ceremony for a 500,000-square-foot hospital expansion. 

The 10-level hospital expansion will include 174 adult beds, with space for growth that would bring the total capacity to 390 private adult patient rooms and 64 neonatal beds between the new facility and the hospital’s existing Ward Tower. The expansion will include a new emergency department, clinical lab and radiology department along with room to expand other services. 

The ceremony took place in front of the hospital’s Ward Tower as concrete was being poured nearby for the hospital addition as well as the adjacent Psychiatric Research Institute and a parking deck. The more than $165 million hospital expansion, part of a more than $330 million slate of campus construction projects under way or planned, is expected to open in fall 2008. 

“For more than 50 years, the heart of the UAMS campus has been its hospital and this expansion allows us to attain new heights of excellence in every aspect of our mission – patient care, education, research and service,” said UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D. 

The expansion, located south of Ward Tower at the site where the old student dormitory was imploded in February, will allow UAMS to begin phasing out use of patient rooms in the original hospital building, opened in 1955. In addition, the facility will include additional surgical and interventional suites, an intensive care unit, an intermediate care unit and other services. A new Interventional Medicine Center will be established as a collaborative unit incorporating surgery, radiology and cardiovascular resources.  

“The new hospital will be as technologically advanced as any in the world and will provide a healing environment on every floor, where every detail – down to the furniture, colors and lighting – will be geared to the patient’s recovery,” said Richard A. Pierson, vice chancellor for clinical programs and executive director of UAMS Medical Center. “We want the hospital to convey our world-class level of programs and services through its distinctive design.” 

The facility will have space for growth, including a planned neonatal intensive care unit. 

The hospital design team included HKS Inc. of Dallas, whose designs of hospital interiors include work on George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Little Rock architectural firms Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects and The Wilcox Group. The design team also drew on input from UAMS doctors, nurses and support staff in planning the new facility.  

The general contractor for the hospital expansion, PRI and parking deck is CDI Contractors of Little Rock, whose previous work on the UAMS campus includes construction of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute.  

The PRI, also opening in 2008 and connected to the hospital, will be one of only nine institutions in the country to combine psychiatric research and education with inpatient and outpatient care. The hospital will connect to the UAMS Outpatient Center, allowing convenient access by those patients to radiology and other hospital services. 

The new parking deck, with access to the hospital expansion and the PRI, will include 1,000 spaces on four levels for patients, visitors and employees. 

Hospital access will be improved through reconfiguration of Hooper Drive, which enters the UAMS campus from Markham Street. The street is being converted to a divided boulevard with a circle drive in front of the hospital expansion and Ward Tower for convenient patient drop off and pick up. In the center of the circle will be an entrance to the parking deck. 

Baldwin & Shell Construction Company of Little Rock is the general contractor for the Hooper Drive work, the recently opened UAMS Residence Hall that replaced the old dorm, and a utility services facility being built on West Seventh Street to support the hospital expansion and other new construction. 

Funding for the hospital expansion, PRI, residence hall, parking deck and site development projects will come from a variety of sources, including a bond issue approved by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees and gifts from donors. 

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has about 2,320 students and 690 medical residents. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with more than 9,400 employees, including nearly 1,000 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.5 billion a year. For more information, visit