published Monday, January 16th, 2012

$4.1 million health and wellness center being built for Chattanooga employees


by Cliff Hightower
An artist's rendering shows a new health and wellness center for Chattanooga employees.
An artist's rendering shows a new health and wellness center for Chattanooga employees.

A $4.1 million health and wellness center for Chattanooga employees should be completed by October, officials said.

The facility will include a pharmacy, doctors' offices and a fitness center.

"It really is kind of a three-pronged approach for the city employees," said Phil Whitfield, architect for TWH Architects and a designer of the building.

The facility will move from its location on 10th Street near City Hall to 11th Street next to the old Farmers' Market. The Amnicola Highway branch will close, city officials said.

Whitfield said the new facility will be 2,500 square feet and include 12 exam rooms, a full pharmacy with a drive-through and a fitness center that includes multiuse space.

Donna Kelley, administrator of personnel for Chattanooga, said the health clinics, the pharmacy and the fitness center all have seen heavy use, and the city has seen savings of more than $10 million over the last five years in health care costs.

Kelley said the savings should continue because the expanded center will offer more health and wellness programming and disease management.

"We'll be able to show them better treatment at less money," she said.

In a 5-2 vote Tuesday, the City Council approved spending $4.1 million for construction. Councilmen AndraƩ McGary and Peter Murphy voted no, while Councilman Russell Gilbert and Councilwoman Deborah Scott abstained.

Murphy said Friday he was concerned about the Amnicola location closing. He said employees who use that facility have told him they would not use the center on 11th Street.

"For some it was convenience; for others it was perception of security," he said.

He has called for a market analysis of the 11th Street property to see how much use it could see by employees.

Kelley said her department has conducted an internal study that shows the center would be adequately used. The city studied employees' routes on the job and off work to see how often they would be close to the center, she said.

Murphy was surprised to hear about the internal analysis.

"It's never been offered up before," he said.

He also questioned the savings if workers don't use the center, because the city will have to pay outside providers who treat those employees.

Kelley said the city has set contracts for the health clinic and the pharmacy, which means less money going to outside providers, and those programs will continue in the 11th Street building.

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