Apr 26, 2022 - News

New nonprofit medical system in the works for NWA

photo of washington regional
An aerial view of Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville. Photo courtesy of Washington Regional Medical System

The Alice L. Walton Foundation and Washington Regional Medical System will create a new nonprofit medical system focused on training future doctors, the two organizations announced Monday.

Why it matters: NWA residents are leaving the area for specialty health care because the population is increasing faster than the area can get doctors, such as cardiologists, oncologists and neurologists.

  • The new system is a push to offer more specialty care in these fields.
  • It will also aim to offer affordable health care with a holistic approach.

Context: This was born out of the partnership announced last summer between the Alice L. Walton Foundation and Cleveland Clinic to assess specialty health care in NWA.

The big picture: Washington Regional wants to become a regional academic health system focused on training doctors beyond general medicine, president and CEO Larry Shackelford tells Axios.

  • Be smart: All of NWA's specialty care doctors have to be recruited from outside the region because no specialty residency slots exist. That will soon change with the addition of residencies in emergency medicine, general surgery and neurology.

Between the lines: A lot of the specifics are TBD. It's too early to say for sure whether this means new construction, such as a hospital or clinics, Shackelford says.

  • The idea is the foundation will help fund the project, and Washington Regional will provide medical expertise. The two will also be working with Cleveland Clinic.

What's next: The foundation and Washington Regional will develop operational plans by the end of this year.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to note the new target of 2025 for the opening of the medical school.

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