published Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Starr Medical Center in Etowah, Tenn., seeks expansion


Interested parties can call for a fact-finding public hearing on Starr Regional Medical Center’s certificate of need for four additional geropsychiatric rooms. A written request for a hearing can be sent to:

Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency

Andrew Jackson Building, 9th Floor

502 Deaderick St.

Nashville, TN 37243

Source: The Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency

Starr Regional Medical Center officials in Etowah, Tenn., want to add four geropsychiatric beds to the facility's existing in-patient geropsychiatric unit to boost capacity from 10 to 14.

"Over the last year, we've reached some capacity issues primarily having to do with gender-lock on the beds," said Chris Zeringue, chief operating officer at the hospital in eastern McMinn County.

Opposite genders can't be mixed in the same room, and patients are being placed on waiting lists because of the lack of space, Zeringue said.

McMinn County's population is growing along with the demographic of aging regional residents who need the services.

If approved, the $1.28 million expansion would take place over two phases, according to consultant John Wellborn, with Development Support Group in Nashville.

The first phase would include the conversion of two existing rooms for geropsychiatric care, Wellborn said. The second phase -- construction of a four-room addition and remodeling of the two temporarily converted rooms for a return to their former uses -- would come later, he said.

Geropsychiatric facilities help older people and their families deal with problems like depression, anxiety, dementia, decision-making changes, chronic illness, and other behavioral health issues such as grief, loss and family-related matters, according to the American Psychological Association's website.

Wellborn said the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency will hold a hearing and vote on the hospital's application on July 23 in Nashville. Conversion of the first-phase rooms could begin soon after the hearing, he said.

Anyone who objects to the proposed expansion can ask for a public hearing to be held locally before that decision to voice their concerns, he said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.

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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