Rex, WakeMed drop appeals of each other’s expansion plans

dbracken@newsobserver.comMarch 22, 2013 

WakeMed and Rex Healthcare have agreed to drop their appeals of each other’s expansion efforts in Wake County, a move that allows three long-delayed projects to move forward.

Regulators with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services gave approval Tuesday for Rex to build a $252.3 million heart and stroke tower on its main Raleigh campus. WakeMed had appealed after state regulators approved the project in September 2011.

Rex, meanwhile, has dropped its appeal of the state’s decision to award WakeMed 51 new beds in Wake County – 22 at its Cary campus and 29 at its main campus on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh.

The agreement between the two rivals comes two months after the N.C. Court of Appeals upheld the state’s decision to allow Rex to build the new heart tower. WakeMed could have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court or filed other petitions.

In a statement, Stan Taylor, WakeMed’s vice president of corporate planning, confirmed that Rex had dropped its opposition to the additional beds.

“It is our understanding that Rex is no longer appealing our 22 bed and 29 bed Certificate of Need awards,” he said. “This will allow us to add the much-needed acute care beds to our Raleigh and Cary Hospitals.”

Rex spokesman Alan Wolf said the heart center case has been resolved but declined to comment further.

In its appeals, WakeMed, which operates a heart center that has long served as the hospital’s big money maker, had argued the new center would be an unnecessary duplication of services that would increase health care costs.

The heart tower’s Certificate of Need includes several conditions. The conditions state that Rex won’t develop any additional acute care beds as part of the project, will not acquire any equipment not already proposed in its application, and will spend no more than $285 million on the project.

Rex’s project will relocate 115 beds from its 433-bed hospital to a new tower that is to be built on a parking lot. The center will consolidate services now offered at seven locations throughout Rex, which is owned by UNC Health Care. Construction is expected to be begin next year and be completed in June 2016.

The center will be home to two heart practices, Wake Heart & Vascular and Rex Heart & Vascular.

“The idea of this heart center represents ... a unique blend of private practice cardiology and the academic talent from UNC,” said Dr. Bill Newman, a founder of Wake Heart & Vascular. “I think each one brings a lot of benefit to this new heart hospital.”

He said that highly technical procedures, such as transplants, would be performed at the center. Most such operations are currently done at the teaching hospitals operated by UNC and Duke University, Newman said.

The state allows only a fixed number of new hospital rooms to be built each year, and its decisions often result in fierce competition and lengthy appeals.

Rex and WakeMed’s resolution does not allow Rex to move ahead with plans to build a 50-bed hospital in Holly Springs. Both WakeMed and Winston-Salem-based Novant Health appealed that project.

Wolf, the Rex spokesman, said the hospital has not been issued a Certificate of Need for the Holly Springs project.

Bracken: 919-829-4548

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