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Contributed photo by Parkridge Health System/ Parkridge is constructing a new $12 million emergency department off Lee Highway in East Hamilton County.

Parkridge Health System is joining the East Hamilton health care wars, adding an emergency department to the bustling Shallowford Road medical area.

Construction has begun on the Parkridge North medical campus, located at 7402 Lee Highway. The facility will house a new 11-bed emergency room and is expected to be completed in mid-April. It will be the northernmost access point to emergency services in Chattanooga, situated along Interstate 75 with the next closest emergency room at Erlanger East Hospital 3.5 miles away. Admissions at Erlanger East have consistently exceeded expectations since opening.

"Parkridge Health is growing to meet the needs of the rapidly growing communities northeast of Chattanooga, including Ooltewah, Collegedale, Apison, East Brainerd and Tyner," said Tom Ozburn, president and CEO of Parkridge Health, in a news release. "This $12 million investment will bring more than 25 jobs to the community and allow easier access to premium emergency services with the convenience of bypassing heavily congested roadways surrounding the mall and Gunbarrel Road."

The 12,000-square-foot emergency room will feature routine patient rooms as well as rooms designed specifically for bariatrics, behavioral health, decontamination and isolation, pelvic exams, trauma and resuscitation. Parkridge North will be staffed 24 hours a day by physicians, nurses, technicians and ancillary staff.

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Staff photo by Tim Barber/ Parkridge Health System is constructing a new $12 million emergency department off Lee Highway, at Courage Way.

Parkridge didn't have to obtain a certificate of need for the project, which is the normal regulatory process required to open an emergency department in Tennessee. That's because the department is an extension of the Parkridge Valley psychiatric hospital.

"The overwhelming majority of mental health hospitals in the state of Tennessee are licensed by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and they would not be able to add an emergency room," said Jim Christoffersen, general counsel for the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency. "But in this particular instance, this is one of the rare examples of a hospital licensed by the Department of Health that happens to fall under the Parkridge Valley license, therefore, there's nothing in the law that prohibits them from having emergency services."

The new emergency department is the first phase of a broader vision for Parkridge North. The second phase will include a medical office building that will house medical specialty offices.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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