Harnett expects a 2011 hospital start

Staff WriterSeptember 30, 2010 

Groundbreaking for a long-planned hospital in Harnett County is expected to take place early next year thanks to a $38 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The 50-bed hospital on U.S. 421 in Lillington, about 30 miles south of Raleigh, is expected to employ about 100 workers when it opens and about 300 employees when fully operational. The target opening date for the not-yet-named hospital is mid-2012, spokeswoman Jennifer Franklin said.

The hospital, the second in Harnett County, received the go-ahead from state regulators in 2008.

Groundbreakings for the hospital previously had been scheduled for October 2009 and in May. They were postponed because of delays in getting funding.

The economic downturn made it challenging to obtain the money "at a reasonable rate," Franklin said.

The most recent government funding for the acute care hospital in Lillington was announced Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge, who helped secure the loan. Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat, also helped the hospital obtain a $25 million USDA loan in March 2009.

"This hospital will be a linchpin of economic development and quality health care in the region for decades to come," Etheridge said in a prepared statement.

The hospital will be part of the Harnett Health System, which also owns the county's other hospital: the 101-bed Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital in Dunn. It's one of a number of new hospitals or hospital expansions under way across the Triangle.

WakeMed, Wake County's largest hospital system, manages Harnett Health System.

WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said the new hospital will cater to an underserved area that includes, in Harnett County, Campbell University and that extends to the area surrounding Fort Bragg in neighboring Cumberland County.

"It should make a big difference in the quality of life for [the] community," he said.

Atkinson envisions the hospital attracting physicians who have their own practices as well.

"I think you will see specialists who aren't currently in the community ... will now come from other locations," he said. "It will create a medical neighborhood."

In addition to covering the $53 million cost of the hospital, the two USDA loans will cover an upgrade of the information technology system at Betsy Johnson, which will serve both hospitals.

david.ranii@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4877

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service