Covenant Health and Encompass Health invest $50 million in rehab centers

Knoxville-based Covenant Health and Encompass Health, a national healthcare provider, have agreed to jointly own and operate the existing Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center and a new West Knox location by 2022.

Keith Altshuler, president and chief administrative officer of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, said talks about the partnership started earlier this year.

Covenant Health is in the midst of remodeling its Fort Sanders hospital and planning for the future. Encompass leaders approached Covenant officials and struck a deal, pairing the national provider's state-of-the-art technology with the community-owned system's quality of care.

The original Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center is located inside the Fort Sanders hospital and was established in 1978. Altshuler told Knox News that after the center undergoes a $15 million renovation, patients will stay in a one-story, 22-bed hospital with private rooms and bathrooms.

"Patients and their families are usually in those spaces for about two weeks or more, depending on their injury," Altshuler said. "We're looking forward to providing a more comfortable space for folks that really need longer-term care."

As part of the joint venture, Covenant Health and Encompass Health will add a freestanding, 51-bed inpatient rehabilitation center on the Fort Sanders West campus to increase access for residents of West Knox County.

Patients recovering from debilitating illnesses and injuries including strokes, neurological disorders, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, amputations and complex orthopedic conditions will be able to access treatment at both facilities. Both locations will offer physical, occupational and speech therapies and 24-hour nursing care.

Work on the rehab centers will cost upward of $50 million and is in addition to more than $200 million the network has invested in the expansion of Parkwest Medical Center and Fort Sanders Regional.

Management of both rehab centers will remain in Knoxville.

Covenant and Encompass have both been recognized for being great places to work — Covenant named "Best Employer" by Forbes and Encompass ranked as one of Fortune’s "100 Best Companies to Work For."

Altshuler said that, as the Knoxville area’s largest employer, Covenant is expecting to create jobs and hire people in the area once the facilities are completed. The number of jobs will depend on the volume of patients seen at the rehab centers, Althshuler said.

Both rehab centers are expected to be completed in 2022.

"Our expertise and clinical experience to treat patients are really superior in this area,"  Altshuler said. "We're combining the skill sets that they afford with the quality legacy that we've developed here ... If we can match and marry all these things together, we've really got a really strong position."

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Allie Clouse

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Published July 23, 2020