To meet immediate and long-term health care needs in the community, Covenant Health today announced plans for a $115 million expansion and modernization of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center that includes new critical care and intermediate care beds and emergency department rooms. The expansion is part of a long-term master facility plan that has been accelerated by the changes in the market.
Covenant Health leaders say that changes in Knoxville’s health care market, especially downtown, have created a critical situation in terms of increased patient demand.
The developments include the loss of Baptist Hospital downtown plus Tennova’s decision to forego a new hospital on Middlebrook Pike and significantly reduce services at Physicians Regional Medical Center.
“We are a non-profit health system with a mission to improve the lives of those we serve through better health,” Covenant Health CEO Jim VanderSteeg said. “The board and management of Covenant Health feel strongly that we must keep our covenant and meet the rapidly increasing health care needs of the community through the expansion at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.”
Covenant Health officials say that, as a major referral center for hospitals across the region — and the primary health care option in the downtown area — Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center is at the center of the increased demand for services. Demand in the critical care units exceeds current bed supply most of the time.
“The situation becomes very real to family members who must wait longer periods of time for their loved ones to be transferred from the emergency department or critical care to a patient room”, VanderSteeg said.
In addition to new beds, the expansion of the 100-year-old downtown hospital will mean easier access to the facility and improved parking.
Plans call for the expansion of the emergency department and the addition of new critical care and intermediate care beds to start as soon as possible and take place over the next 12 to 24 months. The emergency department will see a 67% increase in the number of rooms to 45. The emergency department will be on the ground floor of the Center for Advanced Medicine (CAM) on Clinch Avenue, and the ICU and CCU will be located in the two additional floors that will be built atop the CAM building.
EMS parking and other space needs will necessitate the expansion of the parking garage between Laurel and Highland avenues.
Covenant Health is the largest employer in the region with more than 10,000 employees. Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center is the leading acute care referral center serving a 23-county area in East Tennessee. The hospital campus includes Thompson Cancer Survival Center and the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.
“The expansion at the Fort Sanders campus is necessary for us to continue providing excellent medical care and to meet the ever-increasing demand for services,” said Keith Altshuler, Covenant Health’s CAO at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. “It will have a positive impact on the region’s health. The investment in Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center is an investment in Knoxville and the East Tennessee region.”
Covenant Health is submitting various facets of the expansion plan to Metropolitan Planning Commission and to Knoxville City Council for approval.