Three health care groups have submitted proposals to reopen Franklin County’s only medical center.
Duke LifePoint Healthcare, WakeMed Health and Hospitals and the Franklin County Healthcare Hospital and Practice Accountable Development Group are vying for a chance to provide care in the former Franklin Medical Center, which closed last October.
Winston-Salem company Novant Health, which owned the 83-bed hospital, left last year and failed to find a buyer to take over.
A measure in this year’s state budget allows for a freestanding emergency department to open in Franklin County, north of Wake. Previously, North Carolina law allowed freestanding emergency departments only in counties that already had a licensed hospital. Under the change, such departments can operate as long as a hospital is in an adjoining county.
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“I am very heartened that we have gotten three proposals,” said Boyd Sturges, an attorney who serves on the Louisburg Town Council. He said Franklin County has hired a consultant to consider each plan.
All three groups say they want to open an emergency department and provide beds for mental health patients.
Also as part of the state budget, rural counties like Franklin can apply for money from the Dorothea Dix Hospital Property Fund, an $18 million pot to help treat patients with mental-health needs.
Last year, North Carolina sold the site of the former Dix psychiatric hospital to the city of Raleigh for $52 million.
WakeMed wants to invest a total of $26.9 million and open a triage center with general laboratory and radiology services, according to its proposal. The company wants to go from 15 to 60 adult mental health beds within two years.
WakeMed served 26,000 Franklin County patients last year, said hospital spokeswoman Debra Laughery.
“The opportunity for Franklin County residents to receive care in their own community when appropriate is good for the patient and the hospital,” Laughery said in an email. “WakeMed is already the closest facility to Franklin County residents.”
Duke LifePoint Healthcare proposes a project that would cost between $22.8 and $24 million to renovate the facilities, provide diagnostic imaging and establish 13 geriatric mental health beds. Eventually, the behavioral health unit could have between 48 and 60 beds, according to the proposal.
The Duke proposal says it would also establish a primary care practice in Louisburg and a surgery center with two operating rooms in Youngsville.
A Duke spokeswoman declined to comment.
Franklin County Healthcare, which proposes to run the facility as a full hospital, would be owned by local physicians and have about 14 mental health beds. It would contract emergency medical services and seek funding from loans, grants and nonprofit groups.
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners will have a public hearing on the proposals at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at the County Administration Building, 113 Market St. in Louisburg. The board is expected to approve a proposal Oct. 24.
When the hospital closed, 113 full-time and 16 part-time employees lost their jobs. Sturges said the the county’s emergency department has been missed.
“We’ve got to have an emergency room,” Sturges said. “That’s a need.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi