Novant Health announced Tuesday that it is reducing the number of inpatient beds at its Franklin Medical Center in Louisburg and laying off 59 employees.
It’s the latest move by Novant that’s sure to rankle local officials who have long worried the company will pull out of the area.
The Winston-Salem based hospital system stressed that the hospital is not closing. Officials said the move was in response to declining patient volumes and lower reimbursement rates from insurers.
“Hospitals in North Carolina and across the nation feel the effects of declining demand for inpatient care combined with reduced payer reimbursement,” Patrick Easterling, Novant’s senior vice president for consumer operations, said in a statement. “With the changes occurring in health care, a realignment of our services is necessary to preserve our ability to provide care for our community.”
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Novant will reduce the number of inpatient beds in Louisburg from 70 to 2, and keep 13 beds for geriatric behavior patients. Caryrn Klebba, a Novant spokeswoman, said the average patient count this year for the hospital has been 18, with seven of those patients in geriatric behavior beds.
The Franklin Medical Center will remain a licensed acute care hospital, and maintain its emergency and outpatient services, including surgery, imaging, laboratory and rehabilitation.
Boyd Sturges, a Louisburg town councilman and frequent critic of Novant, said he’s skeptical the hospital can meet its obligations to medically under-served communities in Franklin and neighboring counties under the changes.
“I don’t like it and I hope there’s going to be some serious conversation,” he said.
State regulators have already approved a plan by Novant to redistribute its operating rooms in Franklin County. The redistribution would leave two operating rooms at the medical center instead of three and involve building a new outpatient surgical center in Youngsville, just north of fast-growing Wake County.
Rex Hospital, which has three operating rooms at its Wakefield center in the northern part of Wake County, has appealed the state’s decision. The Office of Administration Hearings has nine months from when the appeal was filed in June to make a decision.
Should either side appeal that decision, the dispute would go to the courts.
Staff writer Sarah Barr contributed to this report.