New Plan for Hoke Hospital
FirstHealth of the Carolinas plans to file a new application for a 65-bed hospital in Hoke County, a $100 million project that would supercede previous plans.
“On one hand, I would think this is good news and will be well received,” FirstHealth CEO Charles Frock said Tuesday. “The downside is that any appeal could delay the project three to five years. I think that tempers the excitement.”
Frock’s caution is based upon the ongoing battle between Pinehurst-based FirstHealth and Fayetteville-based Cape Fear Valley Health System over whose plan best meets the needs of Hoke County residents. The two health systems are appealing the state’s decision last year to allow both to build hospitals in that county.
“Everything kind of stands alone,” Frock said. “Our appeal is independent of the new application.”
Julian King, a Hoke County resident and vice chairman of FirstHealth’s Board of Directors, said the new proposal would have an “undeniable” economic impact that exceeds the 300 to 500 new jobs that it would create.
“FirstHealth’s announcement ... will draw untold numbers of businesses to our county,” King said. “The increase in the tax base will help the county’s budget, fund schools and encourage further development.”
In fact, a family that owns 450 acres surrounding the FirstHealth site in Hoke County is mulling a $69 million mixed-use development, according to Charles Morris, a Fayetteville-based financial adviser to the family.
“You couple that with the two hospital projects, and you’re talking about a collective investment of more than $250 million,” Morris said. “Of course, everything depends upon one or both hospitals being built.”
FirstHealth filed applications to build a hospital in Hoke County in 2009 and last year, and both were approved by the state but remain in appeal status. FirstHealth is withdrawing its 2009 application, keeping the 2010 plan essentially as backup, and proceeding with the current proposal.
“From a competitive standpoint, we need an approved application that is still in play,” Frock said.
FirstHealth must submit the new application for a certificate of need (CON) by June 15, and can expect the state’s decision by Nov. 25.
In addition to filing a new application, FirstHealth plans to expand its 30-acre site on U.S. 401 about halfway between Raeford and the Cumberland County line.
The comprehensive health care campus would include medical office buildings, an urgent care center, diagnostic and imaging services, a health and fitness center, and other health-related services.
In the 2011 State Medical Facilities Plan, the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation recommended that 65 beds be available in the multi-county planning district that includes Hoke and Cumberland counties.
“We prefer to focus our energy and time on the 2011 application and our plans to expand the medical campus,” Frock said. “It makes more sense to us, so that’s the direction we’re going to go. It’s got to be an integrated, comprehensive solution.”
The new hospital would also include a 24-hour emergency department with treatment rooms, two operating rooms, diagnostic cardiology, imaging services, laboratory services, labor and delivery, and critical care transport.
“Our original plans called for a smaller hospital based on the number of beds we could move from Moore Regional Hospital to serve only Hoke County,” Frock said. “With the 2011 State Medical Facilities Plan, the state has created an opportunity to propose a larger hospital without our having to move beds from Moore Regional.”
FirstHealth initially proposed building an eight-bed hospital at a projected cost of $34.1 million. Cape Fear Valley has proposed a $92 million, 41-bed hospital on U.S. 401 closer to the Hoke-Cumberland line.
The two health systems have been sparring over the fast-growing Hoke County market for more than a year.
“Approval of the 2011 FirstHealth Hoke Hospital CON application would replace our previous proposals,” Frock said. “Where we do not need certificate of need approval, we will move forward with our plans to add and upgrade our services in Hoke County.”
Those plans include the addition of digital mammography and extended hours on weekday evenings and Saturdays at the FirstHealth Family Care Center-Raeford.
“While CON appeals may have delayed the immediate building and construction of a hospital in Hoke County,” Frock said, “it has not slowed our dedication to fighting for Hoke County residents and providing them with the quality hospital services they deserve.”
Contact Ted Natt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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