County seeks to join state lawsuit against HCA Mission

Buncombe County in North Carolina has filed a motion to intervene in the attorney general's lawsuit against HCA and is seeking $3 million in damages it claims HCA Mission Hospital has cost taxpayers through "excessive" wait times for patients to get transferred from EMS care to the hospital's emergency department. 

The proposed complaint alleges that emergency services at Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Hospital have "deteriorate[d] dramatically" since Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA Healthcare acquired it in 2019. 

"In particular, during relevant times, defendants intentionally understaffed the Mission ER so that Buncombe County's EMS crews often experienced excessive wait times to transfer patients to the Mission ER, requiring EMS personnel to attend to emergency room patients long after arriving at the Mission ER," the county said. 

Buncombe County claims that the hospital's "90th percentile times" — which refer to the time it takes 90% of EMS-to-ER patient transfers to occur — have risen from 16 minutes in the first quarter of 2020 to more than 32 minutes in the third quarter of 2023. The national standard, set by the National Emergency Medical Services Information System, is 20 minutes. 

"We've received the motion, and we will continue to defend the lawsuit vigorously," Nancy Lindell, a spokesperson for HCA Mission Hospital, said in a statement to Becker's

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein sued HCA in December, alleging the health system lapsed on its purchase agreement of Mission Health by cutting certain emergency and cancer care services at 815-bed Mission Hospital. 

Emergency care deficiencies at the hospital have been at the center of citations issued by CMS in recent months. Regulators have given the hospital a June 5 deadline to fully implement accepted correction plans and avert the loss of federal funding. 

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