ASHEVILLE - Public comment starts for three hospitals' bid to bring 67 acute care beds to Buncombe, residents have three ways to tell North Carolina health agencies which one they support.
HCA Healthcare-owned Mission Hospital, Novant Health, and AdventHealth have applied to build the beds and filed certificates of need (CON) with the Division of Health Service Regulation in June.
There will be two public events, one hosted by the North Carolina Health and Human Services Department and one by Western North Carolina patient advocates on social media and patient advocacy group Take Medicine Back and Mountain Maladies Facebook group.
More on moves to expand hospital services in Buncombe:
Additionally, beginning July 1, anyone can join doctors, nurses, elected officials, community members, and organization leaders in writing a letter of support to the Division of Health Service Regulation.
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The CONs consisted of nearly 3,000 pages of documents including hundreds of letters of support. Many of these were replicated, boilerplate language.
"I am writing in support of Mission Hospital's CON application to expand beds at the main hospital campus," said a replicated letter signed by Mission-employed doctors and Mission Hospital Board members. "This need is further exacerbated by the fact that our community is experiencing factors that increase the need for more specialized and advance care, such as a growing and aging population, a larger number of people living with chronic health conditions and worsening social detriments of health."
But some were personal reflections based on professional experience.
"I am plugged into the nonprofit world, in addition to the medical community," Director of Philanthropy at Planned Parenthood and 35-year Buncombe resident Nikki Harris said in a letter of support for Novant Health. "Since HCA Bought Mission, the level of decline in our hospital system is unpalatable. ... The addition of a new acute care service provider will greatly benefit our region."
Mathew Trowbridge, founder and CEO of Range Urgent care said Asheville's "people are as strong as our mountains," but expressed doubt about Mission's capabilities.
"HCA/Mission is failing us," he wrote in a letter of support for AdventHealth. "As our population continues to grow and age, we desperately need choice. Moreover, we need a new hospital owned by an organizations that understands our history and is aligned with our core values."
For the next two months, Buncombe residents — and anyone else — can give their own feedback in letters, in person and online.
Write or email a letter
The public comment for Buncombe' hospital expansion CONs is open until 5 p.m. Aug. 1, according to a NCDHHS news release.
Comments may be submitted as an attachment to an email if they are sent to DHSR.CON.Comments@dhhs.nc.gov.
Comments may also be mailed to:
Healthcare Planning and Certificate of Need Section, Division of Health Service Regulation, 2704 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-2704,
For more information residents may contact:
Julie M. Faenza, Project Analyst, Healthcare Planning and Certificate of Need Section, 919-855-3873, email@example.com.
The DHSR website says "Comments must be sent to ... DHSR.CON.Comments@dhhs.nc.gov and to the analyst assigned to the review," so residents may consider copying Faenza on their emails.
Attend the DHSR public hearing
NCDHHS also said in its news release that it would host a public hearing on the CON.
This will be held at 9:30 a.m. Aug. 12 at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Asheville Campus, 19 Tech Drive, in the Ferguson Building's Ferguson Auditorium.
According to the DHSR website, the most recent public hearing on a CON was in March 2020.
According to NCDHHS spokesperson Catie Armstrong, this public hearing will be the DHSR's first since March of 2020.
"Public hearings are part of the certificate of need application review process when certain criteria are met," Armstrong said. "The agency accepted and reviewed written remarks from the public in lieu of conducting CON public hearings beginning in March 2020 due to the prohibition on gatherings due to the State of Emergency and based upon local town, city and/or county restrictions and mandates."
Attend patient advocate-organized FB forum
Hosted by the Mountain Maladies Facebook group and Take Medicine Back, the event will be on Facebook July 14, starting at 6 p.m.
"Take Medicine Back and Mountain Maladies Group is pleased to present a Town Hall style forum regarding applications for Certificate of Need for a new, 67-bed hospital in Asheville, NC," said a discussion post on the event's Facebook page.
"What questions do you have for Novant, Advent, and HCA? We are confirming attendees with Novant and Advent, and will be inviting HCA as well."
Organizers said a tentative agenda will include:
6pm-6:15pm Opening remarks from Take Medicine Back and Mountain Maladies - why this is important.
6:15-6:35pm - Uninterrupted presentations by Novant, Advent +/- HCA to make their case.
6:35pm - 7:25pm - Questions from community members. Leave feel free to comment below with your questions. We will be inviting community members to ask questions on camera and will be fielding questions from the community via chat functions. An expert panel will be available for follow-up questions and analysis.
7:25-7:30pm - Closing remarks, update on what's next?
7:30-8:00pm - Post-hoc analysis by experts and community discussion.
Andrew Jones is Buncombe County government and health care reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach him at @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter, 828-226-6203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please help support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Feedback forms slated for Mission, Novant, AdventHealth expansion bids