The Cary News included a story yesterday quoting me and profiling two Holly Springs residents on their desire to have a hospital built in their town. Every community wants a hospital for convenience, choice, access, and yes, competition throughout the region. But it is not feasible for every community in an urban county like Wake to have a $100,000,000 hospital every few miles.
A community hospital generally needs at least 80 to 120 beds in order to attract the physician specialists and clinical staff necessary to ensure a wide breadth of services. Specialty hospitals, like the 60-bed women’s hospital WakeMed is planning to build in North Raleigh, or a cancer hospital, or even a hospital specializing in surgery, can thrive with fewer beds because of its single focus.
However, a non-specialty, community hospital with fewer than 80-beds typically serves as a referral source. In other words, if a patient presents to the emergency department with a serious ailment for which they need inpatient care, chances are very likely they will be immediately transferred to a tertiary care center with more specialties and services.
There are many areas of our county where it takes more than 9 miles to get to a hospital. In fact, most communities in Wake County are at least that distance from a hospital, including some areas within Raleigh – a city that has 3 hospitals.
But, the question of the allocation of health care resources never has had an easy answer. The challenge for state regulators is to strike a balance so all citizens of North Carolina have access to facilities and services that provide high quality, affordable health care – without unnecessary duplication and overlapping services in an area. An exact recipe makes for a strong health care community where all citizens are served.