Covenant Health wraps up major project downtown

Sandra ClarkInside 640, Let's Talk

We sometimes celebrate the “what-might-be” and overlook the “what-is.”


This Saturday, Feb. 20, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center will begin treating patients in its new critical care department.

The facility includes three intensive care units (ICUs): cardiovascular, neurological and medical-surgical. The project has expanded the facility’s cutting-edge resources, equipping each room with eICU capability (telehealth specific to the ICU) and in-room dialysis. The new department also provides an enhanced environment for patient healing, with an increased number of nurse workstations and a family-centric design for each private room.

New Helipad at Fort Sanders Regional

This department’s opening marks completion of the final phase of a $115 million construction project to expand emergency and critical care capacity at Fort Sanders Regional. The new emergency department opened in March 2020.

Hospital officials celebrated with a virtual tour on Wednesday.

Think about the logistics of this project:

  • Construction was “up” rather than “out”
  • Construction happened during a pandemic that has stressed every hospital
  • Construction was in tandem with the regular 24/7 operation of the medical facility. Hospitals don’t close.

Knoxville could have lost this community resource. Yes, the investment was substantial, but so was investment at the hospitals previously known as Baptist and St. Mary’s. Both closed.

But Covenant Health opted to invest $115 million to expand and modernize its downtown hospital rather than flee to the suburbs.

Keith Altshuler and his team at Fort Sanders Regional coped with the project’s temporary road closures and reduced parking for more than two years.

Former Mayor Madeline Rogero and former members of city council collaborated with zoning changes and more to ease the way for the project.

Doug (on time/under budget) Kennedy and his team from Johnson & Galyon Construction did a bang-up job.

And here’s a hat tip to Covenant CEO Jim VanderSteeg who made it happen. A great city must have a great downtown medical center. Fort Sanders Regional is that center. Our town is lucky that it is here.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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