Cone Health CEO pushes back on Atrium Health's hospital proposal

Atrium Health has proposed a new hospital in Greensboro, N.C. The CEO of Cone Health, based in Greensboro, isn't keen on the idea. 

If the $247 million proposal is approved, Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium would relocate 36 beds and two operating rooms from its Wake Forest Baptist High Point (N.C.) Medical Center to Greensboro and build a 20-bay emergency department. Both High Point and Greensboro are situated within Guilford County. 

 A certificate-of-need process meeting was held April 18; Atrium hopes the request will be approved by September, but opposition from Cone Health could drag the process out far longer, according to previous reporting by Becker's associate editor Nick Thomas. 

Cone Health's perspective

Mary Jo Cagle, MD, CEO of Cone Health, expanded on her concerns in an op-ed piece published in the Greensboro News & Record April 20. 

"... Atrium's proposed Greensboro hospital will be a way station to Winston-Salem for those needing more than basic health care," Dr. Cagle wrote. "The economic impact will follow."

Atrium's new facility would duplicate services that Cone Health already provides at a lower cost — a concentration that certificate of need laws were designed to prevent, according to Dr. Cagle. 

She also writes that the hospital would be an inconvenience to patients. More complex cases would have to be transported from the small Greensboro facility to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, sticking patients with higher costs and taking them out of their community, Dr. Cagle alleges. Additionally, the proposed Atrium facility is a mile walk from the bus stop, while Cone's hospital is situated directly on the bus line. 

"This is about growing profits — not serving a growing population," Dr. Cagle continues. "The area around the proposed hospital is more affluent, with 1.6 times the average median income than the area around High Point Medical Center where they are moving the beds from."

The area around High Point is also growing faster than the area around the proposed Greensboro location, Dr. Cagle wrote, questioning the motive behind transferring beds. 

Atrium Health's perspective

"It is unfortunate that our competitors have intentionally and fundamentally misrepresented this proposed project," Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said in a statement shared with Becker's

The hospital said its new facility would not unnecessarily duplicate existing facilities in Guilford County, as it would not be adding any beds or operating rooms. 

Additionally, 271 beds and nine operating rooms would remain at High Point Medical Center. The hospital is confident in its ability to grow services in High Point despite the relocation of some beds and ORs, it said. 

"Our proposal represents a $247 million investment in Greensboro and will expand access to some of the nation's leading experts and specialists within our nationally-known academic learning health system, not only for those who already seek care with Wake Forest Baptist but for all Guilford County residents," the hospital said. 

"This proposed hospital will increase safety and quality in the delivery of health care services. We understand the need for lower health care costs and all individuals will continue to have access to our acute care services, regardless of their ability to pay."

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