In June, Erlanger Health System broke ground on a new children’s hospital in Chattanooga that is expected to deliver state-of-the-art medical care, contribute to a higher quality of life and support the advancement of scientific research.
Projected to open in late 2018 or early 2019, the $40-million, three-story facility will feature centers for child psychology, physical therapy and hypertension. The new building is also designed to maximize the efficiency of care and expand access through technologies like telehealth, which is the ability to deliver health care information and consultations over the internet.
The new children's hospital is part of more than $100 million in capital investment by Erlanger Health System at its facilities that are designed to enhance medical services offered in the Chattanooga region.
Don Mueller, CEO of Children's Hospital at Erlanger, says a primary goal of the new building is to create a new standard for pediatric care.
“What we're are trying to do is not just build a new building, but transform the delivery of pediatric health care for this entire region, which means we are going to do it differently,” Mueller says. “In this building, we will have four telehealth suites that will be capable of doing telehealth around the region. In addition, we are working with our community partners to create discovery zones where we can teach kids about different types of medical subjects.”
Children's Hospital at Erlanger: More Flexibility
The Children’s Hospital at Erlanger was founded in 1929, and while the hospital has been able to keep up with changes for decades, the current facilities are nearing the end of their usefulness. Mueller says the current building is not designed to support the way his staff works, and the new facility will have a massive amount of flexibility built into it.
“In our new building we are going to have a lot of shared space,” he notes. “So if the gastrointestinal group wanted to have a bigger clinic that day when the orthopedic doctors are in surgery we can just expand over. All the rooms are being built to the same specs so that we can flex the size of our clinics based upon our patient demand and not have individual areas carved out for each department that don’t have the ability to flex.”
In addition to increasing access and efficiency, the new building is being specifically tailored to treat Greater Chattanooga’s youngest patients. Once completed, the new hospital will have a 19th century steam locomotive, hang gliders from nearby Lookout Mountain and a tow truck, which pays homage to Chattanooga as the birthplace of the towing industry.
New Hospital Provides Vital Pediatric Care in Chattanooga
With the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga currently planning to build a medical sciences building directly across from the new children’s hospital, a major medical and scientific research corridor is being created.
The local community has committed more than $20 million to the new hospital, and Mueller suggests this shows just how vital a new children’s hospital is to Chattanooga and the surrounding areas.
“What you will find out that some of the most important elements of the community aren't just the roads and the bridges but also the infrastructure around the school system and healthcare,” he says. “We have recruited 25 new, pediatric-trained physicians in the last two years and the number one question they ask when they come for recruitment is where are their kids going to go to school and who is going to take care of them if somebody gets sick. I think this town has realized that in order to invest in their future and the economic development, a new children's hospital is critical.”