Rex Healthcare has moved a crucial step closer towards constructing a 50-bed hospital in Holly Springs, which has been seeking a hospital of its own for more than a decade.
The latest development came Tuesday when a state official upheld an earlier ruling that approved the application submitted by the UNC Health Care-owned hospital system. The initial ruling was contested by archrival WakeMed and others.
The prior state approval was among several rulings that were revisited in the wake of an administrative law judge’s finding in May that the state improperly analyzed proposals to either build new hospitals or expand existing ones in Wake County.
Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears said he was greeted with “thunderous applause” when he announced the ruling by Drexdall Pratt, director of the state’s Division of Health Service Regulation, at a town council meeting Tuesday evening.
“I/we thought it was a very positive (development) in our long, long journey to get a hospital in Holly Springs,” Sears said. Town residents, he added, “do not have quick access to a hospital.”
Sears said he’s not a fan of a state regulatory system that limits the number of new hospital rooms that can be built each year, triggering fierce competition among hospital systems and seemingly endless appeals.
“If you win, it’s appealed,” he said. “If you lose, it’s appealed.”
True to form, this week’s ruling isn’t the final word. The hospitals have 30 days to decide whether to contest the decision before the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Stan Taylor, vice president of corporate planning at WakeMed, said the hospital system hasn’t yet decided whether to appeal the approval of Rex’s Holly Springs hospital.
Several other rulings also were upheld by Pratt. They include:
• Permission for WakeMed to add a total of 51 beds – 29 in Raleigh and 22 in Cary. Taylor said WakeMed is both pleased and disappointed by the ruling, since WakeMed’s original proposal called for 101 beds.
• Approval of Rex’s application to replace 115 acute-care beds with a new tower at its Raleigh campus dedicated to patients suffering from heart and vascular diseases. Rex spokesman Alan Wolf said the approval allows Rex to consolidate care offered at scattered sites in a single location as well as offer new services, such as an emergency department, for such patients.
“We had anticipated all along that we would be able to move forward with these projects,” Wolf said, referring to the heart tower and the Holly Springs hospital.
However, Rex didn’t get everything it wanted. Pratt denied Rex’s appeal of an earlier decision that rejected its proposal to construct a 40-bed hospital in Wakefield.