Health-Care Systems File Appeals
Two competing health-care systems have each asked the state to stop the other from building a new hospital to serve Hoke County.
Both Pinehurst-based FirstHealth of the Carolinas and Fayetteville-based Cape Fear Valley Health System have filed legal appeals asserting that the state was wrong in its recent decision to allow both to build hospitals within 10 miles of each other.
The two providers thought they were competing for permission to build a hospital to serve Hoke County, which is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years as Fort Bragg expands as a result of the Army BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) program. The state approved certificates of need (CON) for the two hospitals in late November.
FirstHealth filed its appeal Dec. 23, primarily as "a pre-emptive measure," according to FirstHealth spokesperson Gretchen Kelly. It said in the appeal that the proposed Cape Fear Valley facility, which would be in western Cumberland County near the Hoke County line, would duplicate services of its proposed hospital near Raeford.
"We were hoping that neither side would appeal the plans approved by the state," Kelly said in a statement. "The needs of the Hoke County and Cumberland County residents were a priority with the state's decision to award both CONs (certificates of need). We were looking forward to continuing with our project and believe that choice and competition would be best for all the parties involved, especially the residents of Hoke County.
"We are disappointed in their decision to appeal our project and delay the provision of needed services to Hoke County. However, when we learned that they were likely to appeal, it was necessary for us to appeal to protect our rights under the state's process. In fact, if Cape Fear would withdraw its appeal and proceed with their project, we would do the same."
Cape Fear Valley Medical filed its appeal Monday, arguing that the FirstHealth facility will not meet the needs of Hoke County residents. It also said in its filing that FirstHealth's application was based on incorrect or inflated information, such as the number of Hoke residents who come to Moore County for health care.
Kelly defended FirstHealth's proposed hospital and the data it used to support its case.
"Our proposal was based on market share data that is provided to all hospitals in the state," she said. "Using that data and our projections for reasonable growth, we determined an eight-bed hospital would initially best meet the needs of Hoke County. If the state could grant additional beds to Hoke County at this time, we would certainly consider a larger initial facility. We have the financial resources to grow as population, utilization and regulatory guidelines permit."
The appeals will delay construction of the proposed hospitals, both of which were initially scheduled to be completed in 2012.
FirstHealth wants to built a $30 million to $35 million hospital on U.S. 401 in Raeford. It announced in a news release last week that the new name would be the Hoke Community Hospital.
The Hoke Hospital will include eight acute-care beds (transferred from Moore Regional Hospital), an emergency department with eight beds that will operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, one operating room (transferred from Moore Regional), diagnostic cardiology and lab services. Imaging services will include X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, mammography and MRI. It will also have mobile diagnostics, critical-care transport and a helipad.
A medical office building will have space for specialists and other interested physicians.
Ambulatory Center Sought
FirstHealth and Surgery Center of Pinehurst have also filed a joint CON application for state approval to build a $3.5 million freestanding ambulatory surgery center on the Hoke hospital campus. It would have two operating rooms. FirstHealth also expects a decision on its CON to build an ambulatory surgery center sometime in January.
Cape Fear Valley proposed building a $79 million, 41-bed hospital. Current state restrictions bar the Fayetteville-based system from building a facility inside the county because Cumberland and Hoke are not in the same medical service planning region under the state's 2009 plan. Hoke is included in a district with Moore County.
In August, Cape Fear Valley asked the state to align Hoke with Cumberland County in the 2010 plan. The State Health Coordinating Council in October approved a proposal to allow health-care providers in Moore and Cumberland counties to provide medical services in Hoke County starting next year.
FirstHealth said that that as Hoke County becomes its own planning area, additional inpatient beds and other regulated facilities will be added as demand for services grows.
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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