Highlands-Cashiers Hospital will stick with Mission through its potential sale to Hospital Corporation of America.
The regional hospital had an “unwind” clause which allowed them to dissolve their relationship with Mission Health if the healthcare system sold the within 10 years of the sale. The hospital was purchased by Mission Health system in 2014. Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Board voted not to use the clause. The deal between Mission and HCA is still up in the air and the details under discussion are confidential. Officials say they will have a contract for negotiation in August.
Highland’s Mayor Pat Taylor is waiting patiently for that day. He has many concerns about the potential sale to the for-profit healthcare system. He says he understands the need for a rural hospital to be affiliated with a larger system. However, he is concerned that smaller Mission hospitals such as Highlands and Franklin will only be seen as hindrances to the economic viability of a for-profit hospital system.
“The question is how long will it be before there might be a reassessment by Hospital Corporation of America where they say, ‘Economically this isn’t good for us’ and they either close the hospital here in Highlands or Cashiers down?” says Taylor. “Or they sell it to some other corporation.”
In the past, Highland-Cashiers Hospital Foundation has had a deal with Mission to make up any shortfalls in the budget. As of 2016, the foundation had a fund balance of over $19 million dollars available and spent almost $5 million dollars. The sole purpose of the foundation is to support the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital.
Last week, Mission announced that pending the sale to HCA they would create Dogwood Health Trust, a foundation to address the needs of the area. They stated in a press release that grant funding is not likely not begin until 2020.
“As the mayor of this community, my concern is that if we lose good access to healthcare - that impacts the desirability of people to reside in this community,” says Taylor.