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Erlanger North is seen on Monday in Red Bank.

Six years after Erlanger Health System decided to end inpatient care services at its Erlanger North hospital in Red Bank, the hospital is starting to bring them back.

History of Erlanger North

In 1988, Erlanger Health System purchased the Red Bank Community Hospital for $2.4 million.

Officials then invested in two expansions, building a 30,000-square-foot addition in 1996 and purchasing the Red Bank Professional Office Building behind the hospital for $575,000 in 2001.

Citing low admissions, Erlanger officials decided to remove inpatient services in 2009, and laid off half of the hospital's 100 workers at the time.

Source: Times Free Press archives

On Wednesday, the hospital will reopen 12 inpatient beds at the hospital on Morrison Springs Road, Erlanger North CEO Phil Jackson said.

"As I've met with business leaders and local officials in Red Bank, they have made it clear that there is a community demand for these services," Jackson said.

The beds will serve patients with nontraumatic medical conditions — primarily those transferred from the hospital's 24/7 emergency room.

Erlanger North's operating rooms will remain closed, though Jackson said he would like them to reopen down the road.

Opening the beds also will help alleviate some of the space issues at the downtown hospital, which has been operating at full capacity.

The facility once was known as Red Bank Community Hospital and was home to more than 50 acute care beds during the 1970s. Erlanger bought the hospital in 1988. The hospital suspended all inpatient care in 2009, citing low admissions. Out of the 21 beds at the time, the hospital was filling just five to 10 on a daily basis.

At the time, half of the 100-person staff was cut at Erlanger North.

Now, Jackson said, business is looking up.

"Erlanger has been financially successful over the last year and a half that we have been able to reinvest earnings into the main campus," Jackson said. "Now we're putting them back into their community hospitals."

The cost to reopen the beds is slated at $420,000, which will come out of operations, hospital officials said.

Erlanger is in the process of hiring more nurses for North, he said. The hospital staged a "homecoming" event Sunday to celebrate its reinvestment in the area.

But the hospital has maintained services at the site, including imaging, nuclear medicine, a sleep study center and a 12-bed inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit.

Red Bank Mayor John Roberts said the hospital's decision to reopen beds shows "there is a demand for hospital care on the north side of the river."

"I think these are exciting times," he said. "We're seeing Red Bank going through a rebirth and the hospital going through a renaissance, too."

The hospital already is seeing increased competition north of the river, with CHI Memorial recently investing $17.6 million in its Hixson campus about 11 miles away. That project included the expanding Memorial Hixson's intensive care unit and emergency department.

But Jackson said community feedback, not Memorial's investment, drove Erlanger's decision to open up the beds.

Reopening the inpatient beds will be "the first of many phases" for redeveloping Erlanger North, officials said.

A decade ago, hospital officials were discussing the possibility of turning Erlanger into a center for geriatric and senior care. Now, hospital officials are looking to possibly expand a sports medicine focus at the site. The UT Erlanger Institute for Sports and Health, headed up by Drs. Bill Moore Smith and Stephen Cromer, opened at the site last year.

Erlanger does not just have its sights on Red Bank. The hospital already is moving ahead this summer with a $50 million expansion at its Erlanger East campus on Gunbarrel Road, which also also being turned into a full-service hospital. Meanwhile, the hospital is trying to raise support for a new children's hospital downtown.

Contact staff writer Kate Belz at kbelz@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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