New 'smart' hospital in Ringgold, Georgia, advances towards summer groundbreaking

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY CHI MEMORIAL / An artist's rendering shows the new $130 million hospital planned for Ringgold in Catoosa County. It's planned to be a "smart hospital," and county officials are encouraging residents to get involved in fundraising efforts underway for its construction.

With construction cost overruns under control, Catoosa County residents anticipating their new hospital can expect fundraising to kick off in late spring and groundbreaking this summer.

Prices for lumber and steel have been increasing by 1% to 1 1/2% every month, said Andrew McGill, senior vice president of strategy and business development for CHI Memorial, the faith-based nonprofit building the new hospital in Ringgold, Georgia.

"Construction escalations have just been horrific, and as we're preparing to go out to the market and issue our [request for proposal] for general contractors to come aboard so we can break ground this summer. We just have to make sure our project remains affordable but also that it remains the project that it was as we described it," McGill said. "And the good news is that we did that."

The hospital's cost grew to more than $130 million, he said, but by refining the project, officials brought it back into its initial cost projection of $100 million to $110 million. The hospital will be a community hospital, McGill said, with acute care/emergency services, full-service imaging, diagnostics and 85-90% of surgeries.

More complicated surgeries like cardiac, spinal, neural, open cranial and complex cancer treatments still will be done at Memorial's main Chattanooga facility, he said. The CHI Memorial Hospital in Hixson is an example of the kind of community hospital Catoosa County residents can expect, he said.

The hospital will have all the latest technology as a smart hospital, McGill said. "... [with] new technologies that support the patient experience and integration of information, decision making, materials around the facility and how we communicate."

CHI Memorial has obtained buy-in from local authorities through issuing revenue bonds of up to $40 million, McGill said, greatly improving the likelihood of receiving Certificate of Need approval from the state. The certificate is required so health care services aren't duplicated and health care providers aren't undercut pricewise by new facilities.

"[The] Catoosa County Commission and County Development Authority did agree to bond financing of the project. What that tells the Department [of Community Health] is the county stands behind the project ... and that matters greatly," McGill said. "It's essentially like them being a co-applicant."

The hospital will repay the bonds, and no public funds will be used or taxes levied.

McGill said the state would rule on the Certificate of Need application, submitted at the new year, on April 29.

Steven Henry, county commission chair, said it will be good to have a new hospital for Catoosa residents. Chattanoogans are good neighbors, he said, but the distance can be an impediment to care.

"We've got Memorial Hospital now [the former Hutcheson Medical Center, now CHI-Memorial Hospital - Georgia in Fort Oglethorpe], but it's in an old location, so it'll be great to have a new, fresh building in about the center of the county," he said. "And it'll be a smart hospital, so it'll have some of the latest and greatest technology, which'll be wonderful for our citizens."

Henry will be a part of the team deciding what will be done with the old facility, which was donated to the county at the new year.

CHI Memorial officials are having quiet conversations about how the fundraising campaign will work, McGill said. No details are available now, but he expects the campaign to roll out in late spring or early summer - at about the same time as groundbreaking this summer. The facility will take two years to build, McGill said.

There isn't a certain amount Memorial officials expect from community fundraising, but he said there will be opportunities for residents at every income level to offer their support. The original hospital, the former Hutcheson facility in Fort Oglethorpe, was built with significant donations from the community in the 1950s, and McGill said he expects to replicate that drive.

"The community is just thrilled by this project," McGill said. "They're just embracing it with gusto and enthusiasm."

Contact Andrew Wilkins at or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @tweetatwilkins.