Chattanooga's Memorial Hospital unveils $85 million heart center

Chattanooga's Memorial Hospital unveils $85 million heart center

June 10th, 2014 by Kate Belz in Local Regional News


• What: Memorial will host a grand opening celebration for the community to see the new expansion. The celebration will include free screening, demonstrations, and tours of new rooms, labs and the chapel.

• Where: Guerry Heart and Vascular Center, 2525 de Sales Ave. Follow signs to the new entrance.

• When: 1-4 p.m. Saturday


Key facts about the new Memorial Heart and Vascular Center:

• $85 million total budget

• 300,000 square feet

• 7 stories

• 96 private patient rooms

• 22-beds cardiac short-stay unit

• 7 new cardiac cath labs

• 2 new interventional labs

• 19,000 cubic yards of concrete

• 1,200 tons of steel

• 1 new chapel, with four windows restored from the late 1940s

• 1 dedicated imaging center, diabetes and nutrition center, and weight management center

Chattem, Inc., CEO Zan Guerry

Chattem, Inc., CEO Zan Guerry

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

One fundraiser called it "the building of dreams."

Over three years, 1,200 tons of steel and 19,000 cubic yards of concrete have been wrought into the new, gleaming face of Memorial Health Care System.

The glass-faced, seven-story Heart and Vascular Center is the crowning achievement of the hospital's $318 million, multi-phase expansion.

"It's an amazing day for Memorial, and it's an amazing day for cardiac health care in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the entire region," said Zan Guerry, who helped lead the hospital's fundraising effort for the expansion.

The Glenwood expansion is the single largest hospital project in Chattanooga, and one of the largest construction projects in the city.

While the long-planned expansion was postponed during the recession, it was revived in 2011. The site swarmed with 450 workers at its peak, with three giant construction cranes hovering over the site.

The project is also the fruit of a massive fundraising effort. Memorial raised $15 million, while its Denver-based parent company, Catholic Health Initiatives, matched the effort by $20 on the dollar.

At a blessing and dedication for the center Monday, hospital officials announced that the new tower would be named the Guerry Heart and Vascular Center. The family, which donated $4 million to the expansion along with helping with fundraising, has "a long history with the development and growth of Memorial," said James Hobson, Memorial's CEO.

Hospital officials said the expansion only seals Memorial's place as a front-runner in the state for heart care. Already, the hospital performs about 800 open-heart surgeries a year - the highest number in Chattanooga, and among the five highest in the state.

"More than 20 years ago we built what we thought at the time was the heart institute of our dreams. Our dreams have grown bigger and better," said Dr. Eric Conn, a cardiologist with the Heart Institute.

Conn said the institute is trying to employ more preventive measures to combat Tennessee's grim statistics as the sixth-highest in the nation for deaths due to heart disease.

The expansion wasn't necessarily designed with a boom of new patients in mind. Rather, it has been all about streamlining care, explained Paul Farmer, president of the Chattanooga Heart Institute.

Every floor connects with the institute, which integrated services with Memorial in 2011. Two separate areas for inpatient and outpatient care are under one roof, as are the hospital's cardiologists.

"Before, it was very disjointed," Farmer said. "Now it is all connected and streamlined. You have all the resources and all of the cardiologists in one place."

And special care was given to the expansion's aesthetics - with the express goal of making the hospital not feel like a hospital. Art and ambiance, Conn said, can add to a more holistic "healing environment."

The corridors and lobbies are high-ceilinged and airy, with wide windows providing panoramas of the city. Hallways are lined with plants and paintings. Lighting is soft, and the walls are painted in soothing earthy tones. Some waiting areas will have a TV, while others will remain quiet.

Diona Brown leads a tour of the new critical care unit Monday at Memorial's Guerry Heart & Vasuclar Center. The new $318-million, multiyear expansion project will officially open at the end of the month.

Diona Brown leads a tour of the new...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Guests arrive Monday for a blessing and dedication ceremony at Memorial's Guerry Heart & Vascular Center. The new $318 million, multiyear expansion project will officially open at the end of the month.

Guests arrive Monday for a blessing and dedication...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Besides the aesthetic features, the hospital staff also worked closely with the architect to make the rooms more functional with subtle details that only nurses and staff may have insight into.

"We wanted to work very closely to understand the needs of our staff who are going to be using these rooms every single day," said Andrew McGill, vice president of business development.

The new expansion also reorients the hospital's main entrance. Instead of facing deSales Avenue, Memorial's main entrance will now face north toward Robbins Street.

Medical staff will begin moving into the rooms June 28, and patients will be treated there starting June 30.

As Memorial has raised its bar, other hospitals in Chattanooga's highly competitive health industry have also been pouring millions into expansions over the past two years.

In 2013, Erlanger Health System, which cut the ribbon on a $38 million new emergency room at Erlanger East last year, is also working to finish an ER in Sequatchie County and has formed a committee to pursue construction of a new women's and children's hospital.

Parkridge Health System opened its new Parkridge Valley Adult & Senior Campus in 2013, and purchased Grandview Medical Center in Jasper - since renamed Parkridge West - earlier this year.

And Memorial's expansion isn't finished. The planned Lehman Family Center for Cardiac Rehabilitation is expected to open in 2015.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison or 423-757-6673.