In what planners describe as a unique model for health care, Erlanger hospital will construct a multi-million dollar health and wellness facility at the Volkswagen auto assembly plant to serve both VW employees and the surrounding community.

"This is about wellness. This is about finding a way not to increase health care costs, but decrease health care costs," Jim Brexler, president and CEO of Erlanger, said at a press conference on Friday.

Hospital officials are seeking a developer to construct the project within 12 months so the site will be ready in time for the plant's opening next year, Mr. Brexler said.

Erlanger's total investment in the facility will ultimately be "upwards of $10 million," said Donna Bourdon, senior vice president of ambulatory services at Erlanger.

At the press conference, Erlanger and Volkswagen officials unveiled sketches of the planned 32,000-square-foot facility, which will offer primary care, rehabilitative services, a pharmacy, dental and eye care and a fitness center, as well as a 13,000-square-foot child care center.

Specialists in orthopedics and gynecology will rotate through the center as needed, and the site will include a helipad to accommodate Life Force helicopters for emergency care, organizers said.

The planned health and wellness facility builds upon Volkswagen's strong relationship with Erlanger, said Hans-Herbert Jagla, executive vice president of human resources for Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

"We feel confident this will ensure the best medical care for our team members so they receive the help they need, when they need it," he said.


Erlanger hospital's new health and wellness center, called "Erlanger at Volkswagen Drive," will offer the following services:

* Primary care

* Occupational services

* Rehabilitative care

* Dental and vision care

* Fitness center

* Child-care facility

* Life Force helipad

* Pharmacy

* Specialty care, like OB-GYN and orthopedics, as needed

In January Erlanger announced that Volkswagen had accepted the hospital's bid for a three-year contract to provide health care services for more than 2,000 employees at the automaker's assembly plant here. The hospital is currently providing those services at the plant's construction site.

Erlanger will provide many of the centers' clinicians but the hospital also is partnering with other providers in the area to deliver care. Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation was the first partner to sign on with the center, and will provide rehabilitative care at the site, said President and CEO Bob Main.

The rehab hospital will provide physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychological services, if needed, he said.

"This is going to be a new model and I think it's going to permit the real team effort ... of Erlanger and Siskin Hospital together, all on this one campus," Mr. Main said.

The plant's health care center brings a much-needed medical resource to the rapidly developing Ooltewah and Bonny Oaks area, Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey said at the press event.

Also in Ooltewah, Memorial Hospital is wrapping up construction of a $19 million medical complex, scheduled to open June 1, to serve the growing population's imaging and medical needs.