Rex appeals Novant operating room move

sbarr@newsobserver.comJune 6, 2014 

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— Rex Hospital is appealing a decision by state regulators that would allow Novant Health to redistribute its operating rooms in Franklin County, arguing the move would result in an unnecessary duplication of services.

Part of Novant’s redistribution plan includes building a new outpatient surgical center in Youngsville, just north of Wake County.

Rex, a Novant competitor, has hospital facilities throughout Wake, including three operating rooms at its Wakefield center in the northern part of the county.

“Rex’s surgery centers in Wakefield and our main Raleigh campus already provide high quality surgical services to that region of Wake and Franklin counties, backed by Rex’s commitment to excellent patient care,” spokesman Alan M. Wolf said in an emailed statement.

Rex disputes the projections Novant used to make its case for the move, saying the application ignored their presence nearby. If the plan moves forward, Rex would be “financially impacted in a significant and negative manner” because they will lose patients and market share to the new center, according to the appeal.

Regulators Approved Novant Plan

Novant won approval earlier this spring for its plan to close a little-used operating room at the Franklin Medical Center in Louisburg and include an additional operating room in its plans for the outpatient surgery center.

The plan would leave two operating rooms at the medical center and allow for two more at the yet-to-be built surgery center. Novant officials say the move will give residents in the area better access to care at a potentially lower cost.

“Novant Health has built a strong case based on the outpatient surgical needs of the population of Franklin County and we are prepared to continue advocating for improved access to healthcare,” said Jody Morris, president of Novant Health Franklin Medical Center, in an emailed statement responding to the appeal.

Novant told the state that too many Franklin County resident must leave the county for outpatient surgery. In 2012, more than 85 percent of the county’s residents who sought outpatient surgery traveled outside the county to do so, according to state data presented by Novant.

Novant officials say the new surgery center will give patients another option. They cite studies that show costs can be lower at free-standing surgery centers compared with those in hospitals.

Rex filed its appeal with the Office of Administrative Hearings, which has nine months to make a decision. Should either side appeal that decision, the dispute would then go to the courts.

The state’s Health and Human Services Department administers what’s called the Certificate of Need approval process for new health care services or facilities. Regulators evaluate how new health care services or facilities would affect the health care system, including costs.

The town of Louisburg and other hospital systems, including WakeMed, submitted comments against Novant’s plan, but Rex is the only organization to have appealed.

Town officials in Louisburg have said they worry Novant is most concerned with attracting Wake County patients and could leave those in Franklin behind. Novant officials say the move will not affect the quality of care at their hospital in Louisburg.

Barr: 919-836-4952; Twitter: @barrmsarah

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