Eastern Wake News

Zebulon to WakeMed: ‘Don’t forget us’

WakeMed closed its skilled nursing facility in Zebulon in the fall of 2013.
WakeMed closed its skilled nursing facility in Zebulon in the fall of 2013. amoody@newsobserver.com

Town leaders have opened conversations with WakeMed officials, reminding them that just because plans for an eastern Wake healthplex fell through years ago doesn’t mean such a facility should be off the drawing board altogether.

Mayor Bob Matheny said he met with WakeMed representatives twice this year – once in Raleigh and second time for a tour of Zebulon he and Town Manager Rick Hardin led for the hospital’s president, Donald Gintzig, and its government affairs manager, Andi Curtis.

The purpose of the July 22 tour, Matheny said, was to familiarize Gintzig with the town. Gintzig was named the hospital’s CEO in May after filling that position in an interim capacity since October 2013.

But the visit prompted dialogue on future needs in an area where significant growth remains an expectation, despite its slow arrival. Wendell Falls’ failure to materialize as fast as anticipated led WakeMed to shelve plans to locate a healthplex there in 2007.

“I was just expressing my opinions on our needs out here,” Matheny said. “I was just saying, ‘Hey, don’t forget us over here.’ We have a growing population and I think whenever it can be done, (a local facility) is going to draw not only Wake County residents. I would think a facility out here would not only draw Zebulon residents, but those from close proximity as well.”

WakeMed staffed an outpost on Zebulon’s Gannon Avenue, but it was only used as a nursing home and outpatient facility and was shut down last fall as a cost-cutting move.

Matheny said he brought up the possibility of that site reopening its doors – whether it were run by the hospital or leased to other healthcare providers.

“I’d rather see it be used to benefit the community rather than it just sit there,” Matheny said of the building.

Gintzig made no promises, only indicating the hospital will continue to keep an eye on eastern Wake County.

He said WakeMed pays close attention to growth patterns in the areas it serves and continually evaluates the need for its services.

“Depending on each community’s needs, these services can take many forms and may not necessarily be a hospital, but could include physician offices, an urgent care center, emergency department or a variety of outpatients services,” Gintzig said.

Like it has been before, the decision to provide services in a particular area remains a function of the cost-effectiveness and the need.

“We do currently have a certificate of need for an outpatient facility in eastern Wake county and have made no firm decisions at this point as to when, where or what type of facility this may be,” Gintzig said. “We commit to open lines of communication as we work through the assessment and decision-making process, and we value the input of community residents and other stakeholders.”