KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Tennova Healthcare announced Thursday the purchase of an option to buy property in West Knoxville for potential development of a new hospital.
The property is 110 acres located on Middlebrook Pike near Old Weisgarber Road and is near existing medical facilities and practices.
"The decision to purchase this land was not reached overnight. We considered the changing needs of our patients, new methods of reimbursement, and healthcare reform," said Michael Garfield, Market CEO of Tennova Healthcare. "Purchasing an option on this land is the beginning of the process to ensure we are positioned to most effectively fulfill our mission and advance our vision for strong local health care and economic growth for our community."
The new site would a convenient and accessible for patients throughout the Tennova's 16-county service area, the company said in a news release.
Tennova plans to spend the next several months developing a plan for the usage of the site.
Under consideration is the replacement of the current Physicians Regional Medical Center, formerly St. Mary's Medical Center, located off Broadway in North Knoxville.
The facility, built in 1933, saw more than 53,000 patient cases in its first year as Tennova, but the company believes the building is no longer adequate for their needs.
"I think at this juncture it would make a lot more sense to start over from scratch in order to do some of these changes," Garfield said.
Some patients will be sad to see the current hospital leave North Knoxville.
"In the last 10 or 15 years, I've been here quite a bit. They saved my life when I had a heart attack," said Jackie McHaffie.
She worries what will happens to the neighborhood when the hospital moves out, but Garfield promises Knoxville won't be dealing with another vacant Tennova property, like the former Baptist hospital still sitting mostly empty on the south side of the river.
"We hope to learn from our mistakes and build on those and do something that has been well overdue," Garfield said.
The company said they will look at potential uses for the facility, should a replacement hospital be built, and will evaluate services that would be appropriate for the area, which may also include an Emergency Room/Urgent Care Center and post-acute services.
"We have conducted an extensive review of Physicians Regional Medical Center's existing plant and several factors – including the age of the facility, the difficulty of access for our patients and physicians to quickly get in and out, the amount of land available for expansion and the cost of upgrading infrastructure – make it economically infeasible to renovate as such that it would be as efficient and patient-friendly as a newer facility," said Karen Metz, CEO of Physicians Regional Medical Center. "
The team will also review how the new development will affect Tennova's existing facilities, including those in North Knoxville and Turkey Creek, which the company said have both seen significant growth over the past year.