700,000 minutes per year.
That’s how much time the Arkansas Children’s Clinic in Jonesboro estimates parents spend traveling to Little Rock for treatment. Husband and wife Chris and Kim Fowler felt that was too much time, so they gave the clinic $750,000 to buy the current building the clinic’s been leasing since 2012.
At an official Thursday press conference, Marcy Doderer, Arkansas Children’s president and CEO, said plans are now underway to renovate and expand the building, located at 520 Carson Street. She said it will allow them to bring more full time services to the clinic and treat more patients.
"We are uncertain exactly how many more clinic visits will come every year with the expansion," Doderer said. "We’ll have to see our success rate in recruiting the new specialist to the community. However, with the capacity—while we double the size—will allow us to really double volume over time.”
Doderer said the specialist they will recruit will depend on the needs of the area.
"We have a full-time neurologist today," Doderer said, "and our goal is to add full-time specialists as well as the physicians to come back and forth from Little Rock. So, I think, stay tuned! I would expect that we would see cardiology in the coming years be here as a full-time service."
According to a hospital news release, the clinic services about 99,000 children within a 13 county region. Northeast Arkansas has the third largest concentration of children in the state with about 36 children per square mile.
Among the children being served are the Fowler’s children. Kim Fowler sits on the hospital’s board. She said having a place for treatment closer to home can benefit children and parents.
"When a child is not feeling well or they’re anxious or having to go through some terrible time in their young life," Kim Fowler said, "if they can be close to home and just drive across town or just drive 30 or 45 minutes and know that they are going to get to go home immediately after that, that’s huge. It’s going to have an impact on the care and the success of the treatment of that child.”
Her husband Chris agreed. Chris is the President of Fowler Foods, Inc. and said driving back and forth to the Little Rock hospital for treatment can be difficult.
“Not that the drive to Little Rock is tough," Chris Fowler said, "but like we said earlier, 700,000 minutes a year are spent traveling to Little Rock right now for treatment and for services. That allows parents to stay closer to home, be home, be home for dinner, be at work, and keep their lifestyle normal.”
This is not the first time the Fowlers have donated to the Arkansas Children's Hospital Clinic. In 2015, they gave the hospital $250,000 to construct the Fowler Diagnostic Center. Their gift on Thursday marked $1 million the couple has given in total to the clinic.
As for a timetable for the expansion project, Doderer said they’re in the design phase, but expect to start renovations sometime in 2019. She said patient services will continue during the renovation.