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Mission’s Macon hospital won’t include labor, delivery services
Friday, 02 June 2017 10:59

From Staff Reports

FRANKLIN — In unveiling plans to build a new $43 million replacement community hospital with no labor and delivery services, Mission Health’s chief executive officer expressed his deep regrets to Macon County residents on April 28.

Dr. Ronald Paulus, president and CEO of Mission Health, said at a news conference in Asheville that the nonprofit regional health care system was faced with two bad alternatives in an increasingly regulated and expensive health care environment.

“We are very sorry that we cannot keep this program open,” he told reporters. “We looked at every possibility that we could conceive of ... We just couldn’t find a way.”

Mission Health is the state’s sixth largest health system. It operates six hospitals in Western North Carolina, including Angel Medical Center in Franklin.

Women in Macon County wanting to deliver at a hospital now will have to drive 67 miles from Franklin to Asheville, as Mission also is closing its Sylva practices for women and children. (See related story on this page.)

Changes to the Affordable Care Act, coupled with cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, and North Carolina’s refusal to expand government subsidized health care for the poor has put extraordinary pressure on the health care system, Paulus said, leaving it $34 million behind its original projections with little hope for an upswing.

Seventy-seven percent of the patients at Angel Medical Center are either uninsured or insured by Medicaid and Medicare, he said. For the Mission Heath System as a whole, 75 percent are either uninsured or on Meidcare or Mediacid.

Mission to close Sylva practices for women, kids

SYLVA —  Mission Health announced on May 24 that — in September — it will shut down its pediatric and women’s health centers in Jackson County.

The number of employees who will be terminated in the move was not immediately available. Staff members at Mission Children’s Sylva and Mission Women’s Sylva learned of the decision in mid-May.

Mission Health’s action takes place four years after announcing it would bring Sylva Pediatrics, now Mission Children’s Sylva, under the umbrella of Mission Children’s Hospital as part of a push to provide “specialized care to local, convenient settings.”


Spruce Pine hospital could lose its maternity services

SPRUCE PINE —  Mission Health announced recently that it will make a final decision in the coming months on a plan to shift labor and delivery services offered at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine to McDowell Hospital in Marion.

“A final decision has not yet been made, but we are reviewing a proposal to combine the two programs at McDowell Hospital where there is a stable, high quality OB-GYN practice and a new, state-of-the-art replacement hospital will soon open,” Mission Health CEO Ron Paulus said in written responses to questions from the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Under the proposal, labor and delivery services would be consolidated at McDowell Hospital and, therefore, no longer available at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital.

Small rural hospitals are struggling to keep labor and delivery services, which typically lose money.

Mission Health announced in April that it was ending the labor and delivery services offered at Angel Medical Center in Franklin. That decision sparked anger and concern from the community. Those services are slated to end in July.

Angel staff members handled around 400 births last year. The average at the hospital has been around 260, Mission officials said.

Blue Ridge Regional Hospital performs far fewer deliveries, just 173 last year. That was the third fewest in the state, according to Paulus.


McDowell Hospital handled the fifth fewest deliveries with 187 last year.


“Our Blue Ridge and McDowell physicians and nurses have been delivering excellent care to our mothers and babies, but we currently face the very important and challenging issue of too few births at either hospital,” Paulus said. “While there is no ‘magic’ number of births in total or per provider, we know from research across many different clinical disciplines that higher program volumes and greater individual provider and care team experience produces better outcomes.”


Blue Ridge also lacks around-the-clock surgical coverage, “which is another recommended quality standard,” according to Paulus.


“This challenge is further exacerbated at Blue Ridge, where a small number of births is spread across numerous delivering providers, and there is no material growth forecast in deliveries for the future,” Paulus said.


Mission is building a new facility to replace McDowell Hospital. The new hospital is under construction in front of the existing hospital. 


The new McDowell facility will include five “state-of-the-art birthing suites, and three inpatient/outpatient operating rooms, including a dedicated C-Section room,” Paulus said.


“This extraordinary new facility will offer expectant mothers and families a substantial upgrade over what is currently available at either hospital,” he said.


The new hospital is slated to open early next year.



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