Life Care seeks OK for site in Ooltewah

Life Care seeks OK for site in Ooltewah

April 10th, 2011 in Business Around the Region

Two years after closing its problem-ridden nursing home in Orchard Knob, Life Care Centers of America wants to build a newer and more upscale facility in Ooltewah.

The Cleveland, Tenn.-based nursing home chain has options to buy nearly 12 acres across Snow Hill Road from the Ooltewah Publix Supermarket to build a $21 million nursing home. Life Care has petitioned the state to allow the company to transfer to Ooltewah 120 of the 153 nursing home beds for which it was licensed at its former home on North Highland Park Avenue.

Rob Alderman, director of public relations for Life Care, said "plans are preliminary at this stage" and the new complex is not expected to be opened until 2012.

Alderman said the proposed 79,000-square-foot facility would include such amenities as private dining rooms, an activity center, an ice cream shop, a beauty shop, a library, walking paths and gazebos.

"With large therapy spaces, the facility would offer physical, speech and occupational therapy, plus an outdoor therapy courtyard adjacent to a therapy gym," he said.

As proposed, the nursing home would employ about 200 people and include 80 private rooms and 40 semi-private rooms.

The Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, the state agency responsible for approving new nursing homes and hospitals, is expected to decide in June whether to grant a certificate of need to allow the project to proceed, according to agency director Melanie Hill.

The 12 nursing homes in Hamilton County include 1,842 beds and during 2009 reported an average occupancy rate of 86 percent, according to filings with the agency.

Life Care Centers, one of the nation's biggest nursing home chains with 220 nursing centers in 28 states, operates 24 nursing homes in Tennessee, including Life Care Center of Collegedale only a couple of miles from the proposed Ooltewah facility. The company opened a 108-bed facility in Hixson earlier this year.

"We welcome more nursing home beds in the eastern part of the county and I think this just supports the continuing need for services for the growing 55-plus age group in our community," said Greg Vital, president of Independent Healthcare Properties which operates Greenbriar Cove in Collegedale.

Life Care Centers closed its 153-bed nursing home on North Highland Park Avenue in November 2009 after state health inspectors cited the facility for numerous violations of state nursing home rules.

With its access to federal Medicaid funding cut off because of the violations, Life Care decided to close its Orchard Knob nursing home and donated the 59,000-square-foot facility to Hamilton County government for office space.

"We took what was a negative situation and tried to make something positive out of it," Life Care Centers President Beecher Hunter said at the time.