Residents have 'lost trust' in HCA's Transylvania Regional Hospital: Report

A new community report on HCA Healthcare-owned Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, N.C., indicates concerns from local residents about the facility, ABC affiliate WLOS reported April 12.

The report was released by the Community Engagement Council and sent to Samuel Hazen, CEO of Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA, on April 11, according to the TV station. The group is asking for a response within 30 days.

The community council, which is not the hospital's group, formed amid concerns about how the hospital is run. Two members of Transylvania Regional's board, Mark Weinstein and Parker Platt, resigned in September 2021. Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof had also sent a letter to Mr. Hazen in March 2022 about community concerns at the hospital, including the loss of physicians and healthcare providers, and the resignation of the two board members. HCA acquired Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health in 2019, and Transylvania Regional is part of Mission Health. Since then, HCA has faced lawsuits accusing it of being anti-competitive — including one from Brevard

After the council held multiple public listening sessions with residents, "the basic thing that we heard … is that the residents of Transylvania County have lost trust in our community hospital," Mr. Weinstein, president and CEO of the Brevard Music Center and council member, said, according to WLOS.

The report states that when HCA acquired the hospital, as part of Mission Health, "residents still largely believed that it was for the best; that their cherished hospital was being sold to a company that would act responsibly and continue to provide the services and care this community needed and had come to rely on. Now there is a sense that HCA has broken that trust and lost the confidence of this community through policies, procedures and decisions that appear disconnected from the needs of our people."

The report details concerns the council heard from residents during its listening sessions, including the loss of primary care physicians, elimination of services such as adult day care and rehabilitation services, a perceived decrease in quality of care in the emergency department, and problems with billing. 

According to WLOS, the report also suggests solutions, including hiring a healthcare consultant to conduct a performance audit of Transylvania Regional and for HCA to sell the hospital back to the community.

Mission Health spokesperson Nancy Lindell, in a statement shared with Becker's on April 12, said the health system "has not yet had the opportunity to review the entirety of this 'report' — but the portions we have reviewed are seriously and obviously inaccurate. 

"Specifically, the 'report' claims there have been cuts both to staff and services. In reality, the number of physicians on our medical staff has remained relatively constant, and we promptly and actively recruit to fill any open positions on the staff. Additionally, the rate of nurse turnover at TRH is the lowest that it has been in more than a year. We are proud of our commitment to Western North Carolina and the significant investments we have made in TRH, including over $14 million in significant infrastructure projects, additional specialty services, new medical technology, and the hiring of a new general surgeon."

Ms. Lindell also emphasized Mission Health's commitment to addressing feedback from patients and said the organization "looks into every concern and works diligently and quickly to address them. Unfortunately, because many of the examples listed in the 'report' lack detail or are second-hand accounts, we cannot respond to them." 

Additionally, Ms. Lindell addressed the hospital's relations with the community.

"Last year, HCA Healthcare CEO Sam Hazen met with Mayor Copelof and other members of this community group. While we hoped the meeting would start a thoughtful and ongoing dialog about healthcare in the city of Brevard and the broader Transylvania County region, it did not," she said. "Very shortly after the meeting, Mayor Copelof and the city of Brevard filed an apparently long-planned, but never disclosed, lawsuit against us. 

"For obvious reasons, we cannot participate in a group whose most vocal member is actively litigating against us. We asked Mayor Copelof to recuse herself from the group, but she refused to do so. As a result, Michele Pilon, BSN, RN, the CEO of TRH, formed the Transylvania Regional Hospital Community Council and has engaged with community members and leaders through that group."

Ms. Lindell added that Mission Health "remain[s] steadfast in our commitment to this community and TRH, and we will continue to invest in quality care for the patients we are privileged to serve. We are incredibly proud of our teams and their caring commitment to our community."

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