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Hospitals pitched, the public spoke and now it's up to NCDHHS to pick the winning bid for a WNC hospital expansion project.

Buncombe County hospital certificate of need public hearing 2022
Just over 40 people spoke during the public comment period at Friday's hearing on an acute-care hospital bed expansion in Buncombe County. The hearing, hosted by NCDHHS was held on the AB-Tech campus in Asheville.

The fate of a hospital expansion project planned for Buncombe County is now in the hands of the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Health Service Regulation.

The N.C. 2022 State Medical Facilities Plan, released earlier this year determined Buncombe, Graham, Madison and Yancey counties will have a projected need of 67 additional acute care beds by 2024.

Three healthcare systems are in the running: Florida-based nonprofit Advent Health which operates a hospital in Hendersonville, Nashville-based HCA Healthcare which operates Mission Hospital System and Winston Salem-based Novant Health, which operates hospitals in parts of center North Carolina and in South Carolina. You can find their proposed plans here.

On Friday, hospital executives from all three made pitches and residents shared opinions during a public hearing held in Asheville. A crowd of more than 200 showed up for the morning event, hosted by NCDHHS on the AB-Tech campus. Just over 40 spoke - a mix that included health professionals, local lawmakers and parents. Hospital employees were not allowed to speak.

Advent Health received the biggest nod during the comment period, followed by Novant and Mission.

Paramedic Kermit Tolley, who runs a private ambulance service was among the few taking a neutral stance. “At any given point in time any person in this room is subject to being transported to an emergency department,” said Tolley. “We need to know the one we are going to, whoever it may be is providing the best care available.”

The three applications are now under review by NCDHHS, which could take up to five months. You can find out more about the application and review process here.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.
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