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WNC Business

Healthcare investments create new services and new jobs

Feb 17, 2024 08:39AM ● By Randee Brown

February 2024 will mark five years since HCA Healthcare purchased Mission Health. During that transaction, HCA committed to invest $238 million in capital investments within the first five years, but according to President of HCA Healthcare North Carolina Division Greg Lowe, the commitment was met within four years.

The for-profit status of the hospital has a direct impact on property taxes earned by counties in which HCA/Mission has a presence, allowing more communities to see more revenue for public needs, according to Lowe. 

“We pay about $60 million per year in taxes,” Lowe said. “We're probably the biggest funder of EMS services, public schools, and local government through our taxes, and that’s not just in Buncombe County. It’s in McDowell County, Jackson County, and Macon County; anywhere we own property, we’re paying property taxes.”

Several renovations and expansions have occurred as part of HCA’s investment commitment:

  • The Sweeten Creek Mental Health and Wellness Center added 38 beds to Mission’s mental health practice, a $65 million investment. During a two-year construction period, between 50 to 150 contractors were needed to work onsite daily. Many came from out of town and used local hotels and restaurants, which supported the local economy during the project. This facility also added 50 new jobs from kitchen staff to psychiatry residents.

  • Mission Hospital McDowell, a $20 million investment in Marion, added 20 new rooms with the construction of an additional wing.

  • The Mission Burn and Wound Center, a $7 million investment, provides care for burns that previously required patients to travel out of town.

  • The Angel Medical Center in Franklin was a $68 million investment, and an additional $7 million helicopter was purchased and a hangar constructed next to the hospital which allows rural patients rapid emergency response even during inclement weather.

  • The creation of an OBED department for laboring mothers allows them to receive specialty treatment without having to be sent to the regular emergency room. Combined with the mother and baby tower renovations, it was a $16 million investment Lowe said provides a whole new experience for new mothers.

  • Upgrading and expanding facilities at CarePartners, a rehabilitation facility for those discharged from the hospital still needing care, was a $16 million investment. CarePartners’ Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly was doubled to expand services to McDowell and Transylvania Counties, adding caregivers, therapists, and other staff to provide care.

  • The pediatric emergency department required a $3.5 million investment in order to designate the area and hire trained emergency medicine physicians who specialize in pediatrics.

“Investments in arising new technologies also happen all the time,” Lowe said. “Some of these machines cost $80,000. They’re not on a multi-million dollar list, but we're investing in that kind of stuff all day long. It puts the technology, equipment, and resources into the hands of the experts so they can provide better and safer patient care. That's what we want to do.”

In addition to upgrading and expanding facilities and equipment, more staff are required to fill the new spaces. Surgeons and doctors are being recruited to fill the available jobs, and more providers are being placed in rural areas to tend to patients’ issues that would otherwise require travel to Asheville.

MAHEC is the sponsoring institution for HCA’s residents, and HCA pays MAHEC to train residents and hopes to keep those physicians employed locally. Having enough nurses and technicians is also necessary to address the increasing healthcare needs of the region, so HCA opened Galen College of Nursing in Biltmore Park in an effort to help meet that need.

“We said that not only are we going to open our own nursing school to add additional spots right here to train nurses,” Lowe said. “We also financially supported A-B Tech, Blue Ridge Community College, and Western Carolina University in funding the addition of faculty in their schools so they maintain student-teacher ratios while increasing their student body of nurses.”

The Land of Sky P20 Council comprises industry leaders and academic superintendents from local institutions who join forces to tackle workforce development issues. Serving as Chair, Lowe said an increasing number of programs are being developed to address the future of the workforce, and there are always team members on the board helping to support that demand.

“All of HCA’s investments are funded by our profits,” Lowe said. “It’s the right thing to do for the community, for the services, and for the creation of jobs and the economic impact. To be a part of all that is incredible, and it all goes back to our mission statement of above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.”