Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
Angel hospital in Franklin has been a part of the community in some form since 1923. The history of the community hospital is a unique tale that is built on the dedication of volunteers and the determination of local residents to ensure adequate and sustainable healthcare for them and their neighbors. Since HCA Healthcare acquired all Mission Health facilities, which includes Angel Medical Center, that sense of community and local stake in Franklin’s healthcare has virtually disappeared.
Without much of a platform or outlet to voice concerns, Franklin residents took the opportunity Jan. 30 to speak to Gibbins Advisors, an independent-monitor of HCA, and voiced a number of ongoing concerns — including the overwhelming feeling of losing their “community-centered” hospital and the community partnerships that have been forged since its inception.
Assistant Director of REACH of Macon County, Jennifer Turner-Lynn said prior to HCA taking over Angel Hospital, her organization had never had an issue getting care for their clients. REACH of Macon County provides services to victims of domestic violence in both Macon and Jackson counties. According to Turner-Lynn, prior to the merger, if a client came in and needed medical treatment such as a forensic exam, they would be taken to Angel Medical Center and services would be rendered. But now, the forensic nurse position is no longer staffed at Angel Medical Center, which means rape victims have to be transported to Asheville just to receive the necessary exam.
“If Angel does the transport, the amount of time the victim must wait for an ambulance is unconscionable,” she said. “The last rape kit I did, I took them to Mission and we were there for 13 hours — this is just one of many examples.”
Turner-Lynn said that in addition to not being able to get the services her clients need, something else that has occurred since the merger are rape victims being charged for services.
Turner-Lynn said REACH had never had a problem with a rape victim being billed for the use of the emergency room at Angel Medical Center and now victims are being billed for that at Mission. She said a client received a $1,000 bill from the ER and the only service she received was getting a rape kit performed.
“We have always had such a great relationship with Angel and the staff there, but since HCA has taken over, we have run into problem after problem,” she said.
Another community partner experiencing a disconnect since the merger is the Macon County Public Health Department. Jennifer Garrett spoke to issues health department patients have experienced since HCA took over.
“We have always been able to call and get whatever services or support our clients needed taken care of at Angel Hospital,” said Garrett. We have always known who to call and where to turn, but since HCA took over, we don’t know who those contacts are.”
Garrett said that when patients of the health department need services that aren’t offered by the health department, Angel Medical Center has historically filled the gap, and the health department had funds to help pay portions of those bills. However, under HCA, the health department hasn’t been able to keep those lines of communication open and the partnership between the local hospital and health department is virtually non-existent.