A new hospital will soon open in Derby, which has become an emerging market for health care in the past few years.
The $40 million, 31-bed Rock Regional Hospital, which staff began occupying in February, is still awaiting state inspections and clearance by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to start accepting patients, according to hospital CEO Jason Eitutis.
Located across from Derby North Middle School and just north of Field Station: Dinosaurs, the hospital is part of a new 15-acre medical campus at 3251 N. Rock Road being developed by CBC Real Estate Group from Kansas City, Mo.
Rock Medical Assets — made up of the developers, local investors and private capital firms — owns the for-profit hospital as well as an ambulatory center it bought from Derby Family Medicine in 2018. Ascension Via Christi became a 25% owner in the hospital when it signed an agreement in late October with Rock Medical Assets.
Dallas-based Candor Healthcare is managing the hospital’s daily operations.
The hospital and its campus are part of a $154 million, 49-acre development project in Derby being financed primarily by private investors and $18.9 million in STAR (Sales Tax Revenue) bonds, a method of financing that diverts future sales tax income to pay off debt. The medical campus is not receiving any public or STAR bond monies, said Derby City Manager Kathy Sexton.
While it has yet to start admitting visitors and patients into its natural-light-filled lobby, the hospital is already having an impact.
With community hospitals closing elsewhere in Kansas, Derby officials realize that opening a new hospital in their community, which has a population of about 23,000, is a coup.
“This is a big deal for us. The way I look at it is this hospital is one of the biggest projects to happen in Derby,” said Mayor Randy White, noting the new hospital will be a major employer, is a tax-paying business as a for-profit hospital and will be a benefit for Derby and nearby communities.
It’s drawn new residents like Michelle Belindo who moved to Derby after living for 30 years in Arkansas City to take a job as the hospital’s materials manager. Eitutis, too, is a new Derby resident but isn’t new to the area. He’s a 22-year Air Force veteran who retired last fall as the commander of McConnell Air Force Base’s medical group, and his family didn’t want to continue moving as they had in the military.
About 110 employees already have been hired. By the end of the year, the hospital will have about 175 employees, said Eitutis. Many live in Derby, which helps bring community pride to the new hospital, he said.
The hospital’s medical staff director is Derby resident physician David Niederee, who’s been a part of Derby Family Med Center for decades, Eitutis said.
“While it’s good for Derby, who it’s really good for is the people who are hurting and need help,” White said. “I’m thrilled we’ll have the ability to help people not just in Derby but in the region.”
Until Rock Regional Hospital opens, the closest full-service hospitals in the area are Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph in Wichita, which is about 9miles north from the Derby hospital, and Sumner Medical Center in Wellington, about 30 miles south.
Growing medical community
The Rock Regional Hospital developers are following others who think Derby has growth potential as a health care market.
“In my four years as the mayor, I have been a part of opening six medical facilities,” including the new hospital, said White.
After a Little Clinic opened in the Dillons Marketplace, Wesley Medical Center opened an emergency room in 2016 and it’s already expanded. Also in 2016, a MedExpress urgent care facility opened. That was followed in 2017 by Ascension Medical Group moving into a newly built clinic for primary care, physical therapy and other specialty services. In 2018, Heartland Cardiology opened a new center in Derby. All of those facilities, along with Derby Family Med Center, are in about a two-mile stretch of Rock Road.
Ascension Via Christi bought into the hospital in part because of its proximity to Spirit AeroSystems, on the south side of Wichita, officials said in a release following the signing agreement. The manufacturer uses the hospital system as its preferred network provider and many of its employees live in Derby and the surrounding area.
And there’s still more growth on the horizon.
The medical campus where Rock Regional Hospital is located will include two medical office buildings, the first being 25,000 square feet and the second being 50,000 square feet and two stories, according to Mike Belew, executive vice president of development with CBC Real Estate Group. A groundbreaking on the smaller building, which is 90 percent leased, is expected this month.
“We are waiting on the site to dry out,” Belew said in an email.
Developers are also considering a skilled nursing facility or an inpatient rehab facility for the campus, Belew said.
In addition to having 31 acute-care beds — seven intensive care and 24 medical/surgical beds — the hospital has four operating rooms, two cardiac catheterization labs, two procedure rooms and six types of advanced imagining capabilities. It also has a six-bed ER that includes an isolation room, and a 12-bed recovery area for surgical outpatients. Large windows, often floor to ceiling, bring lots of natural light to public areas and the private patient rooms.
Barry Beus, the hospital’s vice president for development and strategy, estimated that as many as 200 physicians could be credentialed to provide services, including in 17 specialties such as cardiology, gynecology, orthopedics, pulmonary and pain management.
Restaurant company Luby’s will operate the hospital’s cafeteria, adjacent to the lobby and having that same open-concept feel. There’s space to create an outdoor patio dining area, too, Eitutis said.
The building contractor for the hospital was Kansas City-based McCownGordon Construction, which recently opened an office in Wichita because of its growing clientele list in the area. The design firm was ACI Boland Architects, which has offices in Kansas City and St. Louis and focuses primarily on health care clients, according to its website.