Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer

Mission Health has been working for several months on a transition plan for several practices in the Franklin area. The health provider giant’s first move came with the closing of Labor and Delivery at Angel Medical Center and was followed by a string of closings and consolidations in Macon County.

“It began by consolidating the Women’s and Children’s practices into a single, integrated Rural Health Clinic (RHC) and moving our Mission My Care Now, Orthopedics, and Surgical practices to a new location with our Primary Care practice, a second RHC location,” said Cara Truitt, Regional Advocacy Director and Government and Community Relations for Mission Health.

Truitt said that during the transition and the ensuing decrease in staff and services, Mission has worked to bring in new providers.

“Dr. Philip Neiheisel and Dr. Dana Wadsworth will be joining Angel Primary Care and Katie Kruppenback, NP, and Korey Geerdes, PA, will be joining Mission My Care Now,” said Truitt. The new providers replace a slew of providers and nurses whose contracts were ended during the transition period.”

According to Truitt, unrelated to the practice moves and transitions, Dr. Jason Creel with Angel Primary Care will also no longer be operating in Franklin.

“[He] has recently accepted a position with Western Carolina University, allowing him the opportunity to pursue a role in higher education,” said Truitt. “While we will miss Dr. Creel and his contribution to our organization, we wish him the very best and know he is joining a terrific university.”

Mission Health has small hospitals throughout a 19-county region in Western North Carolina, with the nonprofit’s hospital network being headquartered in Asheville. The decrease in services in the rural communities in WNC is not specific to Franklin or Macon County, but rather a trend Mission Health has followed for several years.

Two years ago, Mission Health first started consolidating and changing service options at rural hospitals in 2015, when Mission closed the labor and deliver unit at Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. Angel Medical Center’s closure followed earlier this year and by the end of the month, Mission Health will also close the labor and deliver unit at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine. In addition to the labor and deliver units closing at the hospitals, women and children providers were decreased and transitioned to neighboring larger hospitals, such as Mission hospitals in Asheville and Marion.

While the consolidation process led to a change in providers in their respective areas, Truitt said Mission remained committed to replacing those providers to ensure a continuation of services.

“At Mission, we understand the importance of primary care to our communities and our Human Resource’s Talent Acquisition team is continually working to ensure that we are recruiting and retaining primary care providers to support the needs of our community member’s overall health and wellness,” said Truitt. “We also understand that the personal and professional needs of providers impact their decisions on where they locate their families and practice medicine, which may change throughout the length of a career. Like all healthcare organizations, we engage in ongoing assessment and recruitment efforts to provide the needed care to patients in the areas we serve as providers make decisions to enter and move away from the area.”

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