Plans for a new West Knox hospital appear to be back on

(WBIR) It appears that plans to build a new hospital in West Knoxville are back on the table.

Last year, Tennova announced plans to replace Physicians Regional Medical Center, which is located off Woodland Ave. in North Knoxville, with a new facility off Middlebrook Pike in West Knoxville. The plans were met with protest from residents in both neighborhoods.

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The protesters said Tennova's plans would create an unbalanced health care system in Knoxville, increase traffic congestion on Middlebrook Pike, and diminish property values for nearby homes.

"I'm a cancer patient and there are plenty of hospitals close by that I can get to. I don't need a hospital in my neighborhood. I don't want it. It's going to create too much noise; it's going to create too much traffic," said Rebecca Cagle, who lives in the West Hills neighborhood.

Cagle still has a "No New Tennova Hospital in West Knoxville" sign in her front yard.

Plans were put on hold, however, when Tennova's parent company, Health Management Associates, announced it was selling out to Community Health Systems.

Now that the first 90 days of the transition are complete, Tennova CEO Neil Heatherly issued a memorandum to employees on May 1 that seems to indicate they are ready to move forward with that new hospital.

It reads, "Our most significant project has been the focus on a replacement facility for Physicians Regional. We believe a new facility would help move our entire system forward. Over the last several weeks we have been reviewing the site, design and capacity of the inherited plans. We have had multiple meetings with our engineers, designers, project planners, legal team, and listened to our board, medical staff, employees and members of our community."

While the plans are not outlined in the memo, the original project would build a new facility off Middlebrook Pike near the Dowell Springs Business Park. The former Saint Mary's building, which is more than 80 years old, would become an urgent and primary care clinic.

"To have a business like the hospital move out of the area is going to affect pretty much all these small businesses, due to lunches and things like that. And moving to West Knoxville is not the answer for businesses," said Mathew Wilkinson, who moved to North Knoxville last year.

But not everyone is against the plan. Rick Bryant in the West Park neighborhood thinks it will be good for the area.

"I think it's a good thing if they are coming from Saint Mary's, which is in pretty bad shape, I think. And from what I understand, it's going to be for profit so they're probably paying property taxes and they'll have state-of-the-art equipment. So we're for it," Bryant said.

In the May 1 memo, Heatherly goes on to say that the earliest Tennova could apply for a Certificate of Need for the new hospital would be June, and they are working to meet that deadline.


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