published Monday, March 25th, 2013

Erlanger emergency room coming to Dunlap, Tenn.

BY THE NUMBERS

14,423: Sequatchie County population*

4,815: Dunlap population in 2010

15,000: Estimated annual emergency room visits

* Estimated 2012

Source: U.S. Census Bureau and Erlanger Health System

DUNLAP, Tenn. — Erlanger Health System's new, $1.8 million emergency room in Dunlap will bring full-time medical care to the central Sequatchie Valley as soon as late summer.

The facility will be in the publicly owned North Valley Medical Center building on the north end of town, Sequatchie County Executive Keith Cartwright said Thursday.

"We're excited over here," Cartwright said.

The county is putting up a $500,000 Appalachian Regional Commission grant to help pay for some equipment and retooling, he said. The hospital will cover the remaining costs.

Dr. Debora Daniel now holds the lease for the medical center building and practices there. The county won't get the $2,000 a month from Erlanger that Daniel is paying, but having access to an emergency room balances out the $1-per-year lease agreement between local government and Erlanger, Cartwright said.

"You can't put a price on life and death, being able to provide medical care quicker and closer," he said. "In the case of a stroke, that could make all the difference."

Cartwright said the county's ambulance service will save some money by making fewer trips to Pikeville, Jasper and Chattanooga for medical care. And the ER is expected to generate 33 jobs, he said.

Daniel, who will be displaced in the agreement, could not be reached for comment, but staff at her office said she supports the emergency room. Cartwright said county and city officials agree it will satisfy a longtime need.

Erlanger officials announced plans for the ER late last summer.

Joe Winick, Erlanger Health System's planning and business development vice president, said the certificate of need was approved earlier this month and now awaits final authorization from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Winick said the building will be equipped with the latest technology and specifically trained staff. Erlanger expects 15,000 visits a year from people in Sequatchie County and the surrounding area.

The Erlanger Bledsoe facility in Pikeville, Tenn., about 20 miles north, will continue providing emergency care on the north end of the Sequatchie Valley "and will provide secondary support to Dunlap emergency services if needed," he said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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