Parkridge plans $72 million hospital expansion project at main Chattanooga campus

Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga is pictured in September 2020.
Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Parkridge Medical Center in Chattanooga is pictured in September 2020.

Parkridge Health System officials announced plans for a $72 million expansion project at the system's main facility near downtown Chattanooga, marking the largest investment in the hospital's 53-year history.

The project will include a new patient tower with additional critical care and inpatient rooms scheduled to be completed in 2026, according to a Monday news release.

Parkridge spokesperson Paul Tucker said in an email that hospital officials will not need to apply for a certificate of need — which is akin to a permit — to begin construction because they're not adding to but rather reconfiguring Parkridge's current number of 275 licensed beds.

Part of the plan includes relocating Parkridge's critical care unit to the new area, he said.

"The project will initially add a three-floor tower to the front of Parkridge Medical Center that will have the capacity to expand additional floors in the future," Tucker said, adding the build-out will create a new entrance to Parkridge Medical Center.

(READ MORE: New Parkridge Health System CEO Chris Cosby eyes future growth with focus on patient care)

Parkridge spokesperson Jamie Lawson said via phone that although Parkridge is not increasing the number of beds under its license, the hospital will be increasing capacity for patients with the project — but he was unable to say by how much.

Hospitals routinely staff for and use fewer beds than their license allows. As of 2022, the most recent publicly available Joint Annual Reports for Tennessee hospitals, Parkridge had on average 170 staffed beds and a daily census of 144 patients.

Lawson said patient volumes have grown since then, and there's a particular need for "higher acuity" beds, meaning intensive care beds able to care for patients with more complex medical needs. In addition, the hospital was built when rooms were semi-private, patient rooms today are all private, he said.

Parkridge CEO Chris Cosby said in Monday's release that the project is an effort to respond to the growing needs of the Chattanooga community.

"This significant investment and expansion to Parkridge Medical Center will enable us to meet that future growth and continue to provide exceptional patient care," Cosby said.

The $72 million expansion project comes at a time of declining inpatient hospital volumes, a trend driven by medical and technological advancements that were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While those trends are expected to continue, industry groups project the aging population will leave hospitals to care for an increasing number of older and sicker patients.

Some estimates show hospital inpatient volumes returning to pre-pandemic levels while slowing to a 2% growth rate during the next decade, according to a 2022 report from the health care analyst company Sg2. Meanwhile, the number of days patients spend in hospitals is expected to grow by 8% due to an increase in chronic disease, the report states.

Monday's announcement is the latest of numerous investments from Parkridge, which is owned by the for-profit, Nashville-based HCA Healthcare, in the Chattanooga region.

Parkridge opened a new, $16 million freestanding-emergency department near Camp Jordan in East Ridge in October. Construction is also underway on a new $17 million freestanding emergency room in the Soddy-Daisy community.

(READ MORE: Critics question increasing number of freestanding ERs in Chattanooga area as supporters promote accessibility)

In 2023, Parkridge Health System acquired 38 acres in East Brainerd at the site of a former U.S. Express building to develop a $36 million surgery center in a joint venture with Erlanger Health and local physicians.

The health system has also invested an additional $17 million in recent projects across the network, according to the news release.

"This includes the expansion of women's and emergency services at Parkridge East Hospital, and the expansion of cardiac and digestive services at Parkridge Medical Center," the release states. "With additional technology and facility upgrades, Parkridge Health System has invested $251 million in the health of Chattanooga over the past five years as part of a 10-year $352 million capital investment plan."

Parkridge Medical Center is Chattanooga's third-largest hospital based on the number of inpatient beds.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.

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