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Contributed Rendering by CHI Memorial / An artist's rendering shows the new hospital planned for Ringgold in Catoosa County.

Officials from Chattanooga-based Parkridge Health System are contesting CHI Memorial's plans to build a new hospital on Battlefield Parkway in Catoosa County, Georgia, arguing the project is too close to Parkridge facilities just over the state line in Tennessee.

In June 2021, CHI Memorial officials said they were investing more than $100 million to construct a new community hospital, relocating the health system's outdated North Georgia facility in Fort Oglethorpe to a 27-acre plot of land 2 miles from Interstate 75 to the east.

Since the new hospital on Battlefield Parkway would be more than 5 miles away, Memorial needed to apply for a new certificate of need — a regulatory hurdle akin to a permit that requires health care providers to justify the need for services before undergoing major projects. Andrew McGill, CHI Memorial's chief strategy officer, filed a certificate of need application for the new hospital with the Georgia Department of Community Health in December.

(READ MORE: New CHI Memorial hospital stands to shake up North Georgia's health care market)

As the deadline for state regulators to decide whether to grant Memorial's certificate of need approaches, Parkridge officials claim the proposed relocation will duplicate services in a region that is already well-served while reducing access to care for patients to the west of Fort Oglethorpe.

"We have never been opposed to CHI Memorial Hospital Georgia's current location in Fort Oglethorpe, including building a replacement hospital on the current site to serve residents of Walker and Dade counties," a statement from Parkridge Health System said. "Parkridge Health supports equitable and sustainable access to health care; however, we do not feel CHI Memorial Hospital Georgia's relocation supports that position."

Parkridge operates two hospitals in neighboring Hamilton County, Tennessee — Parkridge Medical Center, which according to Google Maps is 7.6 miles from Memorial's current Georgia hospital, and Parkridge East, which is 6.1 miles from the existing site.

Parkridge East also recently received approval in Tennessee to construct a freestanding emergency department near Camp Jordan in East Ridge, 7.8 miles from the Fort Oglethorpe hospital.

Memorial's new location would be 11, 6.5 and 6 miles, respectively, from those three facilities, according to Google Maps, and CHI Memorial's main campus in Chattanooga is 12 miles from the proposed location.

Memorial officials have said in the past that their desire to relocate is in part to be closer to growth and development and because the Fort Oglethorpe facility carries a stigma left over from the period before Memorial took over in 2017.

CHI Memorial Georgia has launched a website to gather community support in response to Parkridge's opposition.

"CHI Memorial Hospital Georgia is thrilled and ready to build a brand new hospital on Battlefield Parkway, but Parkridge Health System has asked the state of Georgia to stop our project," the website says. "Parkridge wants Georgians to travel to Tennessee for health care instead. Tell Parkridge and Georgia's leaders you want to get your care close to home."

Friday marks the 100th day since Memorial filed its certificate of need application, making it also the last day to submit letters of support for the new hospital to the state. Georgia regulators will decide the project's fate on April 29.

CHI Memorial's McGill said in a statement that the North Georgia community deserves to have convenient access to health care near home, noting that Memorial has had a presence in the region since the mid-1990s and already offers numerous services in Georgia ranging from primary and specialty care to ambulance and workplace health services for the residents and employers of Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties.

"All medical care currently provided in the aging facility will be relocated to a new, modern, state-of-the-art hospital, which can be easily accessed by residents of Catoosa, Dade, and Walker counties. Medical services at the new hospital will also be expanded in order to allow more North Georgia residents to receive health care in the community where they live and work," McGill said.

No other health care facility is opposing Memorial's new hospital, including Erlanger Health System, which has one hospital 14 miles and another 9 miles from the proposed location.

Memorial is part of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health, formed in 2019 when Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health merged to form the largest nonprofit health system in the United States.

Parkridge is part of for-profit HCA Healthcare, America's largest hospital company, whose headquarters are in Nashville.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673. Follow her on Twitter @ecfite.

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