Region 8 Hospital Operating at Full Capacity

July 7, 2006 - Posted at 5:41 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- What happens to a community when a hospital is at full capacity?  Since January, the NEA Medical Center in Jonesboro has been operating more than half of the time at nearly full capacity, forcing the hospital to divert patients.

"People are coming here who previously have not been able to come here and part of that's been due to changes in the insurance laws.  Also, Memphis has moved east in terms of medical care, so we see a lot more people all over from eastern Arkansas," said NEA Medical Center Chief of Medicine Dr. Steven Woodruff.

A growing Region 8 may be responsible for the lack of beds at the NEA Medical Center.  The fifth largest city in Arkansas, Jonesboro's population is up about 5,000 people since the last census.

"I think it's because we are drawing from a larger area and we are seeing a growth in the community and the confidence of the community in this hospital," said Dr. Woodruff.

The facility also went to private patient rooms this spring...doctors say it's made a difference in recovery time.

"It's actually helped us to become more efficient, our average length of stay has been for the most part under four days," said Dr. Woodruff.

While there is a demand for more beds, the hospital doesn't have any immediate plans to expand...just yet.

"We don't want to expand to create more beds," said NEA Medical Center Marketing Director Holly Acebo, "We want to make sure that there really truly is a need for that in Jonesboro.  We know there is a lot of growth happening and it reinforces the fact that two quality hospitals are needed in the area, so we are really just in the analysis phase of that right now."

The NEA Medical Center divert status does vary from day to day.  NEA officials say that shouldn't keep anyone from seeking medical treatment there.  The hospital does keep a limited amount of rooms available for certain circumstances.