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Controversial North Carolina hospital project takes another step forward

Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist has taken a step forward in its controversial application for a new $246.5 million hospital in Greensboro, N.C.

A certificate-of-need process meeting was held April 18 to discuss the proposals, but nothing definitive came out of it, according to an Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist spokesperson.

The proposed hospital hasn't been welcomed by Greensboro-based Cone Health, which has urged the North Carolina Department of Health to deny Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist's certificate-of-need request.

Cone Health already operates its Cone Health MedCenter 2 miles away from the proposed site of the new hospital. The Cone Health facility was opened in May 2022 and is the only such facility in Greensboro.

"This would concentrate imaging, pharmacy, laboratory, physical therapy and other services into a small geographic area and would result in just the sort of duplication of services that certificate of need laws were designed to prevent," Cone Health said in an April 17 statement.

That statement followed on from consistent claims by Cone Health that the new hospital would result in duplicative services and higher costs for patients, according to the Greensboro News & Record.

The certificate-of-need request centers on plans by Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to relocate 36 beds and two operating rooms from its existing High Point (N.C.) Medical Center nearby to the planned facility, which would also have an emergency department. Critics say the move would shift healthcare provision from an underserved area to a more wealthy one.

The certificate-of-need request could be granted by Sept. 1, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist hopes, but opposition from Cone Health could drag the process out far longer.

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

The system is currently licensed for 307 acute care beds and 11 operating rooms at the High Point center, leaving Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist confident it can transfer the proposed  "modest" numbers from High Point Medical.

"This project does not result in unnecessary duplication of existing or approved facilities in Guilford County and we are not adding any new beds or operating rooms," Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist said. Guildford County's county seat is Greensboro.

The situation, however, appears to be heading for what one state Republican, Rep. Donny Lambeth, called a "classic turf war for market share between two large systems." Mr. Lambeth retired as president of Lexington (N.C.) Medical Center and Bermuda Run, N.C.-based Davie Hospital in 2012, according to his website.

Both of those locations are now part of the system. Mr. Lambeth was also president of what was then known as Winston-Salem-based North Carolina Baptist Hospital from 2007 to 2011, now known as the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist is part of Charlotte, N.C.-based Atrium Health, which merged with Downers Grove, Ill.- and Milwaukee-based Advocate Aurora Health in December 2022.

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