For all the angst over budget cuts and a sluggish economy, local hospitals and nursing homes are still investing for future growth.
State regulators Wednesday approved $38.6 million of new health care facilities in Hamilton County just three months after agreeing there is a need to build another $16.8 million nursing home in Dayton, Tenn.
The Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency on Wednesday unanimously approved the required certificates of need for Life Care Centers of America to build a nursing home in Ooltewah and for Memorial Hospital to upgrade its North Park Hospital in Hixson.
In its application, the Cleveland, Tenn.-based Life Care said Ooltewah is a growing area and the new facility at Mountain View and Snow Hills Roads will help replace the former Life Care Center in Orchard Knob, which the company shut down two years ago and donated the building for Hamilton County offices.
Rob Alderman, public relations director for Life Care, said the complex is scheduled to open in 2012 and will also include a 100-bed assisted living center.
"We expect to close on the land purchase within the next three weeks," he said. "It would probably be mid- to late fall before design work is complete and site work can begin."
The Ooltewah nursing home is one of two centers Life Care is building in Southeast Tennessee. Construction began this spring on an 89-bed nursing home in Dayton, Tenn., to replace the company's current nursing home in the former Rhea Medical Center.
Despite the expense, Life Care projects the facilities will begin generating a positive operating income once they are open.
There are currently a dozen nursing homes in Hamilton County with a total of 1,842 beds.
The Ooltewah nursing home will include 80 private and 20 semiprivate rooms as well three dayrooms, an activity room, a gift shop, a library, a beauty shop, a dining room and outdoor courtyards. The facility will employ nearly 150 workers.
Memorial Hospital also is planning a major upgrade of the North Park hospital to better serve the Hixson area.
The $17.6 million project approved Wednesday will increase the number of ICU beds at North Park from eight to 10, while medical surgical beds will decline from 61 to 59.
The emergency department treatment rooms will rise from 13 to 17, and the endoscopy unit will increase from two to three labs.
"This will position Memorial and Memorial North Park to remain a health care leader in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia for years to come," Memorial Hospital President James M. Hobson said in a statement Wednesday.
Deb Moore, senior vice president and administrator for Memorial North Park, said construction should begin by January and the building work will likely take 12 to 18 months.
"It is vital for Memorial North Park to renovate and expand to keep up with growth in the region," she said.