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Mission Health opens new Angel Medical Center in Franklin

Local leaders, community members and HCA Healthcare leadership cut the ribbon at the new Angel Medical Center in Macon County.
Courtesy of Mission Health System
Local leaders, community members and HCA Healthcare leadership cut the ribbon at the new Angel Medical Center in Macon County.

Western North Carolina leaders and HCA Healthcare cut the ribbon on a new hospital in Franklin this week.

The ribbon ceremony began with the national anthem sung by local group Blue Jazz as the American flag was raised outside the building for the first time.

Blue Jazz performed as the flag was raised for the first time.
Lilly Knoepp
Blue Jazz performed as the flag was raised for the first time.

The doors of the hospital were also blessed with frankincense and myrrh by local pastors.

The new Angel Medical Center in Macon County marks a commitment that HCA Healthcare made when it purchased Mission Health System in 2019.

“I don’t think that another community comparable to Franklin that can boast of a new 82,500 square foot hospital that with an investment that including the new heliport equals over a $70 million,” said Franklin Mayor Jack Horton. “If there is another place in the country, I’m not aware of it. We are very blessed and very fortunate.”

HCA ended up spending $25 million more on the hospital than the original estimate.

Greg Lowe, president of the North Carolina division of HCA, also welcomed the crowd.

“We’re just so excited to enter this new chapter and this new phase. It's definitely going to be change as we move into this new facility,” said Lowe. “And I’m excited as you to tour this new facility and walk in.”

Angel Medical Center became a part of Mission Health in 2013. The hospital had a management agreement with Mission in 2011. As part of the deal, Mission provided $16 million toward Angel’s medical debt, helped negotiate insurance rates and cut wholesale costs.

Four years later, the hospital closed its Labor and Delivery Services. While those services will not be restored at the new hospital, CEO Clint Kendall showed off bigger rooms and upgraded technology during a tour of the facility. When asked what trauma level the hospital can support, Kendall says Angel doesn’t use that metric:

“It’s technically a three, four trauma but we do not go by trauma levels,” said Kendall. “So Mission is our level two trauma that would be our tertiary center for us.”

Level three or four trauma centers provide “evaluation, stabilization, and diagnostic capabilities for injured patients,” according to the American Trauma Society. Patients are then typically transferred to a higher trauma level center that can provide more comprehensive care. Mission Hospital in Asheville is a "State designated Level II Trauma Center." According to the American Trauma Society, the top level of care is Level One. Those hospitals can provide “total care for every aspect of injury.”

The new Angel hospital will have a 30-bed capacity inpatient unit with five acuity adaptable beds, 20 medical surgical beds, and five observation beds plus a 17-bed emergency department. There will be three beds that are set up for behavioral health patients. Four rooms are designated for ADA compliance with bigger bathrooms. The hospital has new MRI and CAT scan machines.

Some of the rooms at Angel Medical Center were set up for the tour on September 13th.
Lilly Knoepp
Some of the rooms at Angel Medical Center were set up for the tour on September 13th.

Kendall previously explained that the new rooms are about twice as big as the hospital rooms at the soon to be vacant Angel Medical Center. The average stay for a patient at Angel is three days, Kendall says.

Many in community have been critical of Mission’s role in the region – and the new hospital - citing concerns about excessive billing, decreasing services and expensive transfers to Mission Health in Asheville.

HCA is currently being sued for predatory monopolistic practices in multiple lawsuits including by local governments in Brevard, Buncombe and Madison counties; by State Treasurer Dale Folwell as well as individuals.

This week, HCA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the city of Brevard.

There is a need for more hospital beds in Western North Carolina, according to the NC 2022 State Medical Facilities Plan. Two other hospital systems and Mission Health have applied to the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Health Service Regulation for the opportunity to expand in the region. The state is expected to make a decision before the end of 2022.

The current Angel hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital. There still isn’t an update on what will happen with the old hospital building.

Cara Smith is director of clinical operations at Angel Medical Center. She explained most of the old Angel equipment will stay in the Mission Health system after the move.

“We’re making it available to our colleagues. So Highlands will be getting – so if there is something that we have that will be an upgrade for them they will be taking that and giving that to them. Anything that we aren’t able to share with the hospitals in our area we will put up for auction or part out,” said Smith.

As for staffing, Mission spokesperson confirmed that rotating physicians are contracted by HCA through Team Health. During the tour, Kendall also explained that Angel has recently hired four new physicians: Dr. Blake Rudeseal, Family Practice; Dr. Samantha Brothers, Family Practice; Dr. Mark Moriarty, Orthopedics; and Dr. Zachary Phillips, General Surgery.  Kendell says he is working on hiring more staff.

The new Angel Medical Center will open on Sunday September 18th.

About 20 patients will be moved from the existing Angel Medical Center to the new facility with the help of Macon County EMS at 6 am that morning. Kendell hopes they will be finished by 9 am – before folks on nearby Church Street are heading to Sunday Services.

Here’s the list of services and treatments provided by Angel Medical Center:

  • Acute Medical Services
  • Anesthesiology
  • Bone Density
  • Cardiac Rehab
  • Cardiology
  • CT/CT Angiography
  • Diabetes and Nutrition
  • Echocardiography
  • Emergency Services
  • Family Practice
  • Gastroenterology
  • Infusion/Transfusion Therapy
  • Laboratory
  • Mammography
  • Neurology
  • Nuclear Medicine
  • Orthopedics
  • Pathology
  • Physical, Speech, and Occupational Therapy
  • Pulmonary Function Tests
  • Radiology (imaging)
  • Respiratory Therapy
  • Sleep Studies
  • Stress Testing
  • Surgical Services
  • Telemedicine
  • Vascular Ultrasound
  • Women’s Services
Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.