City Council to decide fate of proposed West Knoxville hospital

City Council to decide fate of proposed West Knoxville hospital

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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE)—  A plan to build a new hospital in West Knoxville goes to city council on Tuesday.  

The new facility would handle much of what's currently offered at Physician's Regional Medical Center - the former Saint Mary's in North Knoxville, where services would be scaled back.  

Tennova wants to build the hospital on 110 acres in West Knoxville - at Middlebrook Pike near Old Weisgarber Road.  

The metropolitan planning commission approved a rezoning request in July and Tennova will plan to purchase the land and move forward with plans if city council signs off on it. 

Knoxville City Council will vote on the first reading on a proposed zoning change from general agricultural to office, medical and related services. 

Some in the West Knoxville community that say the hospital will be disruptive to their nearby neighborhoods; others question why the area even needs another hospital. 

"Tennova's plan is a bad healthcare plan for the City of Knoxville," said Rocky Swingle, a resident who lives in the Wesley section of the West Hills neighborhood.

Rocky Swingle lives near the property where Tennova's proposed 7- story, 250-280 bed hospital would be built.

Swingle started a petition that now has more than 600 signatures against the proposal; many of those residents in the Wesley neighborhood sit right next to the proposed site. 

"This is going to affect a huge region of West Knoxville," Swingle said.  

Residents cite environmental and traffic impact with a nearby hospital.

 Tennova says it's worked with the neighborhood, even modifying its plan to keep the hospital building away from the neighborhood and away from a nearby creek.  

"Anything that is high activity will be as far away from neighborhoods and buffered by trees and landscape," said Jerry Askew, sr. vice president of government relations  for Tennova.

There are other concerns---- since the new hospital would replace Physician's Regional Medical Center in North Knoxville.

"There has been so much opposition to this, more than I've seen on City Council," said Knoxville City Councilman Mark Campen.  

Campen, the 5th district councilman represents North Knoxville and says he will probably vote no to Tennova's re-zoning request.  

Campen says the loss of Physicians Regional would mean big job losses and no local hospital for his constituents.  

"I'm not really interested in profits over people. We have a need of service here in North Knoxville," said Campen. 

Tennova says it's negotiating with possible tenants for Physicians Regional. 

It argues the new hospital on Middlebrook Pike is all about location, closer to the population core not just for Knoxville, but the 11 county area it serves,  "That decision has already been made that we cannot continue to run Physicians Regional as it is," Askew said. 

In June--- Community Health Systems bought Tennova's hospitals which were run by Health Management Associates.  

If re-zoning is approved--- Askew says he believes the new company will go forward with the hospital as planned.  

Councilman Marshall Stair will abstain from Tuesday's vote, citing a conflict of interest, since the law firm he works for has represented Tennova in the past.

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