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CEO Of Harris-Swain Hospital Comments On Duke LifePoint Merger

Courtesy of Harris Regional Hospital
Harris Regional Hospital, Swain Community Hospital and Haywood Medical Center will all be a part of the LifePoint Health merger.

  Non-profit Mission Healthcare’s $1.5 billion dollar sale to for-profit HCA Healthcare is all but done. However, this isn’t the first for-profit healthcare system operating in Western North Carolina.


For-profit Duke LifePoint purchased facilities in Jackson, Haywood and Swain county four years ago. Now it’s going through its own changes.


LifePoint Health is being bought by for-profit RCCH Healthcare which operates in 12 states and is owned by private equity firm Apollo Management Group.  Steve Heatherly is the CEO of both Harris Regional and Swain Community Hospitals, both owned by LifePoint. He sees the merger as strengthening their parent company.


“We understood that becoming part of a larger company was what needed to create a sustainable model for our local hospitals,”says Heatherly.


Haywood Regional Medical Center is also part of the deal. It’s operated by a seperate board. Surrounding counties like Macon and Graham also rely on these hospitals for their labor and delivery units, which they don’t have in their areas.


Heatherly found out about LifePoint merger only when business wires picked up word of the deal. But he doesn’t see this as a part of a change in healthcare in Western North Carolina.  


“We have been a part of the story of the transformation of healthcare for Western North Carolina through the (Carolina) business model and then transitioning to Duke LifePoint,” says Heatherly.  “I mean certainly the mission HCA acquisition deal is a big thing for our region and it’s a fundamental change for the region.”


Unlike the recent Mission Health deal, LifePoint’s sale doesn’t come with the promise of a new foundation. The previous buyout by Duke LifePoint four years ago provided money for Harris to renovate its emergency services as well as its birthing center. The new 15 room emergency facility opened in late 2017. The $5.5 million dollar birthing center was finished at the end of May 2018. Heatherly says this new deal won’t provide the same cash infusion.   


“I mean i think it will be helpful but I don’t think that there will be a direct line between the RCCH health deal and capital dollars being made available to Harris and Swain,” says Heatherly.  


The sale is expected to go through in the next several months.


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who 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.
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