Mission Health’s explanation of why it’s ending deliveries at Angel Medical Center – because it loses more than $1-million a year doing so – isn’t sitting well with Macon County residents. Local leadership, including Franklin Mayor Bob Scott and County Commissioner Gary Shields, both pledged their support to locals in protest of Mission Health, and encouraged them to reach out to local government for help.
On a mild and windy Sunday afternoon in downtown Franklin, upwards of sixty Macon County residents gathered on town square to protest Mission Health’s controversial decision.
“They made this decision—in Asheville, they had a press conference—in Asheville—about what’s going to happen in our community. That just doesn’t seem right.”
That’s Franklin resident Dan Kowal, who organized the event shortly after Mission held its press conference in Asheville on Friday.
“I believe it’s dangerous for women to have to go over that mountain to Sylva, or to Asheville, in the middle of winter, at night, in a storm. I believe it’s bad for our economy. If we can’t attract young people here, new businesses, etc., because that’s what they’re looking for. They don’t want to have to go over the mountain to have a family.”
Several community members spoke at the event, including Franklin Mayor Bob Scott, who gave a brief history lesson on Angel’s early days—when massive community fundraising efforts were undertaken to establish the hospital to begin with.
“Could such an undertaking be successful today? I believe it most certainly can, as long as we put down our cell phones, turn off our TVs, go back to sitting on front porches and knowing who our neighbors are. My generation will pass in the next few years. It is now up to another generation to take up the causes which define us.”
Retired ER doctor Park Davis called for more public scrutiny of Mission Health.
“Ron Paulus says, that it’s costing so much commission to operate the women’s unit here. I don’t understand why he’s going to save any money by having those same patients go over there—he pointed out ‘well, medicare and Medicaid are not reimbursing like they used to’—they’re not going to reimburse anymore by being over there in Asheville! And medicare doesn’t pay anything for babies. He’s searching for words to try and confuse everybody. We ought to have ten thousand people standing here right now!”
The event was flooded mostly by angry mothers—mothers like Carmella Broen, a recent retiree from Macon County Public Schools. Broen was scheduled to have her second child at Harris Regional, but things didn’t work out as planned, so she was rushed to Angel instead.
“If it wasn’t for Angel, I could not, I would not have been able to deliver her over that mountain.”
To say the least, Mission’s decision now infuriates her whenever she relives that day.
“I’m so appalled, and so heartbroken. This is my community and I don’t want to see this happen. This should not even be happening. This is 2017—why in the world are they even thinking about this!?”
But perhaps it was fellow mother Selma Sparks whose words best captured the mood of many in Macon County, and they formed a simple message for area youth:
“I look around here, and I look around Franklin, and I want to know—where are they? This is something that’s going to affect them! Why aren’t they out here to fight for it? I’m eighty five years old and I’m out here willing to struggle for this. For you! You’ve got to fight for what you need and what you want.”
Event organizers say Mission has not heard the last from Macon County, and are currently planning future events.