Pinehurst Surgical Clinic exterior

Pinehurst Surgical Clinic petitioned Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday in an attempt to overturn a denial, issued last week by state health officials, opposed to plans for a multi-million dollar surgical center in Sanford.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services cited a surplus of operating rooms in Lee County as the reason for the rejection.

David Grantham, MD, Pinehurst Surgical Clinic’s (PSC) president and medical director said the proposed surgery center will provide orthopedic procedures such as knee replacement and offer overnight capabilities for those who wish to avoid staying at a hospital.

“We see a lot of folks from Lee County at our regular clinic in Pinehurst. For people to have surgery and then make them drive 30 to 40 minutes to an hour to get back to their home is a big ask. We are trying to make services more convenient for our patients and families.”

In 2018, FirstHealth of the Carolinas expanded its services in Lee County with the opening of the FirstHealth Lee Campus located at 2919 Beechtree Drive in Sanford. In addition to primary care, fitness and other specialty services, the campus houses a FirstHealth Convenient Care location. More recently, FirstHealth assumed EMS services for Lee County.

Grantham said the FirstHealth Lee Campus also increased Pinehurst Surgical’s presence in the greater area; however, the vast majority of physicians affiliated with PSC are not credentialed with Central Carolina Hospital, a Duke LifePoint healthcare facility.

“As a surgical group, we have to have a place to operate to provide the high level services we provide,” Grantham said. “As of now, those patients can be seen in Lee County but must come back to Moore Regional or Pinehurst Surgical Clinic in Pinehurst for surgery.”

“Our goal is to build there for the patients who are there,” he added, with a facility that incorporates a standard outpatient surgery center with a short-stay facility, for those needing that level of additional care.

For decades, the state has controlled the number of operating rooms in an effort to keep healthcare affordable. The concern is that surplus facilities will drive up costs.

Grantham said the problem is with the methodology -- what he described as a convoluted algorithm -- that doesn’t take into account specific community needs. In this case, FirstHealth and PSC’s strong reputation has attracted more patients seeking care. There is also no local representation on the state committee who might better understand the dynamics of healthcare in this particular area.

“If you look at their methods, Lee County does have a surplus of operating rooms. Of course, if 50 percent of your patients are going elsewhere you are going to have a surplus.”

PSC petitioned the Governor’s Office on Monday as “a last attempt” to reverse the state committee’s recommendation, said Grantham. If Cooper rejects their request, PSC has the option to reapply for a certificate of need next year.

“We understand the need for some controls. We are just advocating that in Lee the methodology to determine the surplus is flawed because of the situation there.”

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