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The medical corporation will file certificate of need tomorrow (Friday).
by Clellie Allen
LOUISBURG — Jody Morris, chief operating officer for Novant Health, Franklin Medical Center (FMC) in Louisburg, announced this week that healthcare giant will resume it’s push to expand surgical services to Youngsville. He plans to file a certificate of need application (CON) with the state Friday.
FMC is looking to move one of the hospital’s three operating rooms that Morris says has not been in regular use for patient care and is often used for storage.
In a follow up e-mail, Public Relations Specialist Kathryn Knight said that in the four years since FMC was approved to build a freestanding surgical center in Youngsville, the healthcare environment has changed.
“We have an opportunity to move an unused asset to a location where it can be utilized,” Knight wrote.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Morris pointed to figures that show why moving the surgical room made sense.
“Right now, about 85 percent of people who need outpatient surgical care leave the county to get it,” he said. “Building a freestanding clinic gives more options and for many, it will be more affordable.”
Morris was referring to the usual cost difference between receiving care in a hospital setting versus a doctor’s office. Most health insurances require consumers to meet their deductibles before paying out benefits when hospital services are used. This is generally not the case with free-standing clinics.
Morris asserts that relocating the single operating room will make building the already approved center, near the intersection of U.S. 1 and N.C. 96 more cost effective and allow more flexibility.
The two operating rooms that remain at FMC will be dedicated to both inpatient and outpatient surgeries.
Not so fast
When Novant first indicated in February of this year that it would initiate just such an application, the reaction from the Louisburg town council was palpably against it.
Not much has changed in the ensuing nine months.
Councilor Boyd Sturges responded for the council, many of whom did not learn of the impending CON filing until Tuesday. “We were assured with the original certificate filing for the already-approved surgical room that Franklin Regional would not try and expand further that direction,” Sturges said. “That area of the county is not underserved. However, there are significant pockets toward the north and east that are.”
Sturges also brought up that in February, the council asked Morris to put into writing that Novant would not pursue moving any further services out of FMC for at least eight years.
“We are asking them to agree in writing to not move anything else. But they refuse. Why?”
Not fortune tellers
Morris responded that Novant has made significant investments in the hospital in Louisburg, including $2.8 million in a new geriatric behavioral health unit. “We have no future plans to move,” he wrote definitively.
“However, we cannot look eight to 10 years in the future. And with the changing healthcare landscape, it would be irresponsible to enter into any such agreement,” Morris wrote.
Morris also pointed out that the medical group has given $3 million in charity care in the past year alone and that to continue to do so, needs to find additional sources of income. One way to do that is to give the 85 percent who leave the county for outpatient care a choice to stay in the county.
“We need to generate revenue to offset those costs,” he wrote. “Novant Health is dedicated to serving the entire Franklin County community.
Youngsville commissioners gin up support
Monday, the Youngsville Area Business Association sent out a personal appeal from town Commissioner Cat Redd, asking residents to sign a petition letter in support of the CON application.
“Youngsville needs something like this,” Redd said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Redd encouraged anyone who would like to participate in the petition to come to the town board meeting tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m.
The board will hear from Novant Health Franklin Medical Center representatives and residents will be able to turn in signed copies of the petition letters.
Knight explained that for the letters to count, they must be physically signed, although she can accept faxed or scanned copies of the signed letters.
While Novant will proceed with the application process Friday, the last deadline for this year, Knight said it could take at least 150 days before they hear back from the state. Some applications take even longer.
Anyone who cannot get signed letters to the Youngsville town board meeting, can fax them to Novant, to the attention of Kathryn Knight at 919-497-8477. They may also be scanned and e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.