Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

Since the letter of intent was signed regarding the sale of Mission Hospitals to HCA (Hospital Corporation of America) back in March 2018, the process continues. After due diligence, which involved joint integration and strategic planning for both entities, a definitive agreement was reached. Mission will now be planning for the creation of a new foundation to serve the local community.  It will further validate that joining HCA is the right choice for Mission Health’s team members, providers, patients and communities. This agreement is now being submitted to the North Carolina Attorney General’s office for approval.

Among the issues discussed at a meeting, on Monday, Sept. 10, that included  Karen Gorby, president and CNO (Chief Nursing Officer) at Angel Medical Center; Rowena Buffett Timms, SVP (Senior Vice President), Government and Community Relations for Mission Health; and Kathy Guyette, SVP, Patient Care Services and President, Regional Member Hospitals Mission Health; were the benefits Western North Carolina (WNC) would receive due to this merger.  Among those also in attendance were Franklin Mayor Bob Scott, Vice Mayor, Barbara McRae, Commissioner Gary Shields, and State Sen. Jim Davis. 

Gorby began by stating that by building a new facility, updated technology can be implemented where it was not possible in the existing Angel Hospital, which was built in 1956. Although it has been renovated over the years, much of the building still has its 1956 bones. Technology, robotics, and safety will abound in the newly planned facility, she said. Patient rooms will be larger. As it stands now, Angel’s 25 bed inpatient facility is 60 percent smaller than most other hospitals with no plans to expand the number of inpatient beds in the new facility. With new technologies currently being used patients’ hospital stays are becoming much shorter, often only a one day stay is necessary.

The Telemedics Technology field is growing and so HCA foresees this to be a valuable tool for consumers. Being able to be diagnosed and treated at home by their doctor via the internet will save time and money.  If lab work or prescriptions are needed, the orders will be sent directly to the hospital or pharmacy, negating the need for a doctor’s visit just to pick up a referral, lab order or prescription. This method of health care could be advantageous for senior citizens and others who often must rely on friends, relatives or Macon County Transit to arrange transportation to and from their doctor visits. A discussion ensued regarding WNC’s broadband speed and access for all residents, which would be a factor in implementing any Telemedics program. Several attendees of the meeting stated that it will be looked into.

Mission representatives emphasized that financially it seems to make good sense for WNC.  HCA has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for the assets of the Mission Health Care System.  Under the contract nearly all of Mission Health facilities and clinics will become part of HCA Healthcare while continuing to operate under the Mission brand. HCA has committed to maintaining key clinical services for at least five years and keeping open all rehabilitation and acute-care hospitals for a minimum of 10 years.  HCA has also agreed not to sell any rehabilitation or acute-care hospitals for a minimum of 10 years.  HCA cannot close any hospital even if it is failing. None of these protections exist for Mission Health Care programs today.

HCA has also committed to $430 million over the next five years in capital expenditures which include the completion of the Mission Hospital for Advanced Medicine; a replacement hospital for Angel Medical Center; and building a new Behavioral Health Hospital in the region. HCA will also contribute $25 million with a matching funds of $25 million from Mission Health to create a  $50 million innovation fund to invest in businesses providing innovations in health care delivery that benefit the people of WNC.

Chuck Hall, president of HCA’s National Group stated that he “was delighted to have visited the WNC area and said that Mission Health’s national reputation as a leader in clinical excellence and patient-centered care is consistent with their focus on quality and safety.  The Mission Health Board believes that joining HCA is an extraordinary opportunity to build upon Mission Health’s exceptional quality and ensure that every entity within Mission Health has significant protections that it lacks today and to create a remarkable foundation that intends to invest in the social determinants of health.”

“HCA’s Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute has been the clinical trial leader in the majority of approved cancer therapies in the last decade and approximately 60 percent (106 of 177) of HCA Healthcare’s hospitals are on the Joint Commission’s list of Top Performers” stated John Garrett, MD, Vice Chair of the Mission Health Board.  “Also, we know how essential nurses are in delivering high quality, compassionate care; 10 HCA Healthcare hospitals rank among only eight percent of hospitals nationwide that are Magnet-designated, indicating the highest quality of nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice,” he said.

HCA is also well known for its ability to recruit highly qualified staff such as physicians and specialists. They are well known for their high quality residency programs, having one of the largest such programs in the country. Eighty to ninety percent of residents stay with the HCA network which means more and better providers for WNC. Future plans involve having everything ready by 2020 and to be totally transparent in the community.