Mission Health has finalized their deal with HCA but it isn’t done yet. The deal is currently on the desk of NC Attorney General Josh Stein. Stein is expected to approve or amend the deal near the end of November.
Mission Health’s deal will affect 18 counties in Western North Carolina so each community has a chance to send letters to Stein voicing their concerns about the deal or their support.
Home to Angel Medical Center, the town of Franklin decided in September not to send a letter to Attorney General Stein.
The current deal requires that Mission will not close any Angel Medical Center programs for the first 5 years. Mayor Bob Scott wanted to take this deal a step farther by asking that if Mission wanted to close Angel at any point then they would need to give the hospital back to the town.
Mission has also outlined a new $45 million dollar hospital to be built in Franklin as part of the deal.
Other members of the town council moved to not send the letter because they don’t want to speak for citizens on the issue.
“I know we’re charged with making decisions for residents, but I don’t know how the town or how I feel about this,” said Council member Joe Collins in the meeting, according to the Smoky Mountain News. Collins is the former mayor of Franklin and former board member of Angel Medical Center.
In Highlands, home to Highlands-Cashiers Medical Center, the town made a very different decision.
The town council approved Mayor Patrick Taylor to write a letter detailing four points of concern to Stein that they would like to be added to the HCA deal: Make sure the community is notified if any part of the local campus is sold and allow for time to buy back the hospital; ensure the members of Dogwood Health Trust are independent of Mission or HCA; make sure the terms are reasonable and fairly interpreted; and that the Attorney General continue oversight of Dogwood Health Trust and funds transfers.
Mayor Taylor says he continues to be concerned about the future of Highlands because the hospital is the smallest in the Mission system. However, he is glad that a dialogue has opened up between the town and Mission on the deal as on the creation of Dogwood Health Trust.
Dr. Sam Lupas, who is on the Dogwood Health Trust Board, attended a special meeting to answer questions about the deal on September 27th, according to the Highlander newspaper. Lupas is chair of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital board. Additional members Jack Austin and Paul Robshaw also attended along with Mission representatives and hospital president and CNO Jackie Medland.
“I think Sam will represent Highlands Cashiers,” says Taylor. “However, I do think in some respects Mission has been driving the creation of Dogwood Health Trust and to meet statue requirements there’s got to be a wall between Mission and HCA.”
There are still three board positions open on Dogwood Health Trust but even if all of those are filled by citizens who live west of Asheville the majority of the board will still be Buncombe County residents, says Taylor.
Taylor is not the only person sending letters to the Attorney General. Any citizen can send a letter with their comments on the deal. For all of his concerns, he hopes that the deal with HCA will improve access to healthcare in the region.
“I hope my side loses and that this deal works out for our benefit,” says Taylor.