Officials with the Erlanger Health System received unanimous approval on Wednesday from the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency for two Certificates of Need (CONs) to relocate and replace Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and establish a new emergency center in Pikeville, Tn. The new critical access hospital in Sequatchie County would include 25 beds, and a new 3.0 Tesla MRI to provide magnetic resonance imaging services to Sequatchie Valley residents.
There was no opposition to Erlanger’s companion CON requests, seeking state approval to relocate the Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital to Dunlap, in Sequatchie County, as well as establish a new satellite-based Emergency Center in Pikeville. Erlanger’s satellite Emergency Center is currently located in Dunlap, Tn.
Joe Winick, Erlanger lead executive, appeared at the hearing on behalf of Erlanger and told state officials, “We filed two CON’s because the projects are located in different counties, however they are linked together as an integral component of a critical access hospital.”
In his remarks to agency officials, Mr. Winick emphasized that “we are proposing to develop a regional Critical Access Hospital (CAH), one that will provide essential services to the entire Sequatchie Valley, to three counties, not to only one. The new hospital and the existing facility are about 20 miles apart.”
During the presentation, Erlanger officials explained that Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital is 47 years old and in need of significant modernization. Rather than expanding or replacing the current facility, it was determined that relocation was the best and most strategic option, enabling Erlanger to “foster access to a medically underserved population encompassing the entire Sequatchie Valley, to include Bledsoe, Sequatchie and Grundy Counties,” said Stephanie Boynton, CEO of Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital.
Also appearing at Wednesday’s hearing were Dunlap City Mayor Dwain Land, Sequatchie County Mayor Keith Cartwright, Bledsoe County Mayor Greg Ridley, as well Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District. All four officials spoke at Wednesday’s CON hearing on behalf of this project, giving it their full support.
“We are extremely grateful for all the support shown by these elected officials and business development leaders not only for past projects involving Erlanger, but for this critically important initiative as well,” Ms. Boynton said.
The estimated project cost for construction of the new hospital in Sequatchie County is $32.6 million and the cost for the satellite emergency department replacing Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital is $4.3 million. The current satellite emergency facility, leased to Erlanger by Sequatchie County for $1 a year, plus grants covering $500,000 in equipment, will be relocated to 553 US Highway at the 127 bypass in Pikeville. Both of the new healthcare projects will be funded by Sequatchie and Bledsoe Counties. Project costs are near the midpoint of other similar projects constructed in the state, it was stated.
It was also noted that critical access hospitals have closed in Tennessee and across the United States, creating real health problems for those who reside in rural areas. Officials said there is a clear need for hospital services to serve the rural population, and Erlanger’s plan will meet this quantitative need by improving the health status of three rural counties. Currently, the health status of Grundy County, which the new Dunlap-based hospital would serve, is ranked lowest in the state.
“Today’s CON approvals represent an incredible opportunity to improve the health status of residents in Sequatchie, Bledsoe and Grundy Counties. Erlanger looks forward to embarking on this critically needed and much-welcomed project and providing back up services, including trauma care, planning, and physician recruitment,” said Erlanger President and CEO Kevin M. Spiegel, FACHE. “There is no question this latest partnership with our neighboring counties and their officials will have a dramatic impact on population health in Sequatchie Valley.”