The recent land swap between Erlanger Health System and the city of Chattanooga could bring about a long-awaited new facility for Southside Health Center.
In exchange for a parcel of Lincoln Park land, the city offered Erlanger a parcel at the corner of 38th Street and Ohls Avenue, a site once considered for a new Southside Health Center, said South Chattanooga Association of Neighbors president and Alton Park business owner Larry High.
"This community is in definite need of this, and we definitely need to get it here," High said, adding that the clinic has been housed in the former Franklin Middle School building since 1968.
The idea of an updated clinic has been in the works for awhile, but Erlanger never took action to gain the property necessary because it had no immediate plans to build, according to Joe Winick, senior vice president of strategic planning at Erlanger.
"Erlanger is anxious to move forward with our efforts to relocate and replace Southside; however, we still have work to do internally and with the community before we proceed," he said, although noting that there is still no definitive time table for the project.
Possessing the property is a step in the right direction, said Winick.
High served on the board that initially developed the plans for a new Southside clinic nearly seven years ago. In the time since the initial planning, the need for a new center has grown, he said. Many of the area's residents are uninsured and lack transportation.
"This spot is great for a new center. We need to get it out on the main road and it's on the bus line, so the elderly, and really the community, can make use of it," he said.
South Chattanooga Oak Hill Neighborhood Association president Terry McCollough said he and his neighborhood association are eagerly awaiting news of a new center. His group approved plans for it it more than a year ago, he added.
"I think it's a great thing. The community has practically been waiting on it for a while," said McCollough. "It could have a huge impact on the community."
In addition to offering dental services again, which have been missing and needed for some time, McCollough said the center should consider offering OB-GYN services to the neighborhood.