Rex Healthcare officials ceremonially thanked members of the southern Wake County community on Wednesday for helping them attain permission from state regulators to build a hospital in Holly Springs.
They also asked local residents to help move the planning process forward by telling the hospital what types of services should be offered at the facility.
“What does the community want out of this hospital?” David Strong, president of Rex Healthcare, asked a room full of people at the company’s express care center on Avent Ferry Road just off the N.C. 55 bypass.
The hospital will be built at that location and will have 50 beds, an emergency department, a baby-delivery center and three operating rooms.
Strong said Rex is taking suggestions on anything from the design of the lobby to the types of elective medical procedures it might offer there.
“We need to make sure (plans from four years ago) still meet the current and future needs of patients and families,” he said.
The express center in Holly Springs serves about 1,000 people a month, said Rex spokesman Alan Wolf. An average of two people per week are transported from the center to a hospital for emergency services, he said.
The distance from Rex’s site in Holly Springs to WakeMed in Cary is about 10 miles – the longest distance between any two hospitals in Wake County, Strong said.
The need for a hospital in southern Wake should be obvious to anyone traveling the busy roads between Cary and Holly Springs, said State Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary.
“If you needed to get to a hospital north of here, it would take valuable, valuable time,” she said.
Rex presented Holly Springs and Fuquay-Varina town council members with framed copies of the Certificate of Need it acquired from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services earlier this month.
The gifts were a tongue-in-cheek reference to the arduous process town leaders endured with Rex to bring a hospital to Holly Springs.
Rex and Winston-Salem-based Novant Health submitted dueling applications to the state years ago.
State regulators awarded the hospital permit to Rex in September 2012. Novant appealed the decision once to no avail, and late last month the company informed Rex it would not take its case before the N.C. Supreme Court.
“We’re sorry it took such a long time,” Dale Jenkins, chairman of the Rex Healthcare board of trustees, said with a laugh.
Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears and Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne have been outspoken critics of laws that require hospitals to prove there’s a need for emergency services in an area before building there.
“This process is wrong, and it needs to be changed,” Byrne said.
Sears said Holly Springs staff will expedite the permitting process for the hospital, which Rex expects to spend about two years designing and building.
In the meantime, state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex said he and Barringer would work to streamline the application process.
“We all know time is money,” Stam said. “But in this case, time is also health.”