When CaroMont Health first sought state permission to build a new emergency
center in Mount Holly, it cited the immediate need for emergency medical
care in that corner of the county.
That was in 2009.
A court challenge from a rival health care provider postponed the project
for some time. But that legal roadblock was cleared more than a year ago.
And still there’s been no sign of progress where the Mount Holly
MedPlex is slated to be built, near the intersection of N.C. 27 and N.C.
CaroMont officials say the delay stems from their need to acquire more
land at the site. They expect that process to be completed soon, however,
allowing construction to begin as soon as this summer.
“We’re trying to create something that’s a lot more sustainable
in the long term,” said Doug Luckett, CaroMont’s chief operating
officer and executive vice president of operations integration. “Our
timeline right now, if everything falls into place, has us starting to
move dirt around June.”
The MedPlex has been drawn up as a 46,000-square-foot satellite hospital
with 12 treatment rooms, a trauma room and a resuscitation room. It will
offer diagnostics, CT scans, ultrasounds and laboratory work, catering
to as many as 20,000 people in the surrounding area. A substation for
Gaston Emergency Medical Services will also be included.
CaroMont Health and its flagship, CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia,
filed a certificate of need with the state four years ago to build the
emergency department. The CON is required to build new treatment offices
and equipment. That theoretically restricts the cost of health care for
consumers, by limiting unwarranted growth of medical facilities.
Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System also filed a CON to build a
Mount Holly emergency center. And when CaroMont won the permit in October
2009, Carolinas HealthCare appealed.
A court battle ensued that lasted more than two years, as judges continually
rejected CHC’s arguments. It finally ended in January 2012, when
CHC announced it would no longer appeal the state’s decision. The
health care provider had to forfeit the $50,000 it paid for the CON application.
More property to buy
CaroMont Health acquired almost six acres on the north side of N.C. 27,
across from the Mount Holly Citizens Center, to build the MedPlex. The
land is adjacent to a creek that empties into the nearby Catawba River.
Almost half of the property is in the 100-year floodplain. The initial
plan was to fill in some of the site with dirt, to bring it two feet above
the floodplain and up to street level. But that would have gone against
Mount Holly’s downtown design plan by causing the hospital to be
built too close to the highway. It also would have caused an issue with
parking spaces, said Richard Blackburn, CaroMont’s vice president
of support services.
So CaroMont has been trying to buy more contiguous land.
“It’s somewhere between 1.25 and 1.5 acres that we’ve
been looking to purchase,” Blackburn said.
CaroMont is still talking with three property owners about purchasing four
nearby parcels along nearby Wilson and Alexander streets, Luckett said.
Luckett said the delays have been regrettable, but the goal is to build
something that’s functional and aesthetically fitting.
“This is just a better solution,” he said. “We don’t
want to drag our feet. But we want to make sure we’re not putting
up a quick shack with ER signs on it.”
Because of the reworked site plan, new architectural work is being done
on the building design. But the money to build the MedPlex has already
been put aside, Luckett said.
If work begins this summer, the MedPlex could open by spring of 2015, he said.
You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or twitter.com/GazetteMike.
Mount Holly MedPlex timeline
2009: CaroMontHealth and Carolinas HealthCare System both file requests
to open a free-standing emergency department in MountHolly.
October 2009: CaroMont is granted the certification, prompting Carolinas
HealthCare to appeal.
July 2010: A judge recommends the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation
reconsider its decision to give CaroMont the thumbs up, calling the process flawed.
November 2010: The state department decides instead to ignore the suggestion
and upholds its original decision.
September 2011: A judge dismisses a Carolinas HealthCare appeal.
December 2011: Appeals court judges again reject Carolinas HealthCare’s
January 2012: Carolinas HealthCare says it will not continue to appeal
the state’s decision on the certificate of need.
June 2013: Construction on Mount Holly MedPlex slated to possibly begin
Spring 2015: MedPlex expected to open