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Investing In Your Community: New Facilities And HCA’s Commitments

Courtesy of Mission Health
Angel Medical Center employees at the groundbreaking: Becky Dahl, ICU Patient Technician; Peggy Ramey, RN; Leslie Vanhook, Radiology, David Franks, Chief of Staff; Tim Layman, Manager of Clinical Operations; CEO Karen Gorby; Board Chair Johnny Mira-Knippl

The groundbreaking on a new Angel Medical Center in Franklin has some local leaders applauding HCA for following through on a promise it made when it purchased Mission Health.

Macon County Commissioner Gary Shields was among the crowd for the groundbreaking on a windy afternoon in Franklin.

“When you enhance your health services you help everybody – and that’s what we are looking for,” said Shields.

The new $68-million-dollar facility was part of HCA’s 15 commitments made when it purchased Mission Health in 2019.

The first project on that list was the over $400 million-dollar North Tower at Mission Hospital in Asheville, which was completed in September 2019. After Angel, the next big project is a new 120-bed behavioral health hospital in Asheville. Pending permits, construction is expected to start on October 18, 2021.

HCA's other commitments include retaining specific services at each hospital, continue charity care and many others.  

These commitments are the focus of the independent monitor, Gibbins Advisors, a firm which oversees HCA’s follow-through on its promises in the purchase agreement.

This week, HCA shared its 2020 annual report with the independent monitor. The report is a checklist of where HCA stands on all of its commitments. Gibbins has said it will take a few months to analyze the report then it will then advise Dogwood Health Trust as to whether or not HCA is complying with its commitments. It’s the role of Dogwood Health Trust, the nonprofit foundation created by the sale, to enforce these commitments.  If you have a complaint or concern, you can contact the independent monitor here.

Recently, Mission Health received a downgraded rating for services from independent nonprofit Leapfrog Group. That rating applies to Mission Hospital in Asheville and Marion. Angel Medical Center did not participate in the survey. Angel said it is because it is a critical access hospital.  

In a recent public meeting with the independent monitor, among other concerns, a question was asked about access to surgery at Angel since its sale to HCA. CEO Karen Gorby said that the hospital is hiring new surgeons.  

“Right now, we are really focused on building our orthopedic program, general surgery, urology and some of our other key areas of service that help all patients,” said Gorby.  

Gorby said Angel has three orthopedic surgeons and an ortho sports medicine MD. Additionally, Angel will soon have two general surgeons - one starts in June and another position is in the hiring process. Mission Health said that is an increase from previous staffing levels.

The new hospital will also boast updated wireless technology and follow the trend of more access to telehealth. Gorby said Angel already has telepsych and telestroke programs. The new hospital will have three operating rooms, an endoscopy suite, and a 17-bed ER that will include three dedicated behavioral health beds.

The labor and delivery unit will remain closed said Gorby.

“That really goes back to what our populations are and the biggest population that is growing is 65 and over. So if the demographics change then we will look at providing additional services based on that change,” said Gorby.

In 2019, almost 30 percent of Macon County residents were over the age of 65. 

The new Angel Medical Center is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022.

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.
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