‘Raise the Roof’ at Fort Sanders

Sandra ClarkFeature, Inside 640

You couldn’t call it a ground-breaking because Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center is building up – adding two stories with some 80,000 square feet of patient-care space – at its facility on Clinch Avenue in downtown Knoxville. Political and business leaders joined hospital staff to celebrate the “Raise the Roof” event at noon Friday (11/30).

Mayor Madeline Rogero was all smiles as she praised the $115 million investment in what she called, “the heart of our city, the heart of our county, the heart of our region.”

Patrick Birmingham, former publisher of the News Sentinel who now is a vice president for Covenant Health, was credited with bringing partners together to make the deal work.

Fort Sanders Regional is the area’s oldest medical center, founded in 1919. Rogero called it “an institutional anchor” in our community. “Obviously, proximity matters when there’s a medical emergency,” she said, thanking Fort Sanders for its commitment to downtown Knoxville and noting that with 350 physicians and 2,100 staff, it is a major city employer.

Stephanie Welch

Stephanie Welch, who represents District 1 on Knoxville City Council, said the hospital expansion committee met frequently at Dunkin Donuts. She thanked Todd Morgan of Knox Heritage and Randall DeFord of the Fort Sanders neighborhood association for their involvement.

Keith Altshuler, chief administrative officer of Fort Sanders Regional, spoke of the hospital’s history in training nurses, delivering babies (40,000 in the last 20 years) and bringing technology here including “the first CT scanner in the Southeast.”

The new construction will double the square footage of the emergency room (27 beds to 45) and add rooms for critical care patients. The project also adds 250 parking spaces.

VanderSteeg reflected on the characteristics of the hospital’s founders 100 years ago. “They had strategy, courage, hope and help. … That’s what we need to leave to the next generation.”

Covenant, he said, is committed to putting patients first, to remaining a non-profit and to being locally owned and operated. “We want Covenant Health to be the first and best choice for patients.”

Chaplain Randy Tingle gave the invocation; Chief of Staff Mary Dillon M.D. participated in the unveiling.

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