Five years after merger, RRMC better off, president says

  • Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:50 p.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, March 22, 2013 11:51 p.m.
Dari Caldwell
Dari Caldwell

SALISBURY — Rowan Regional Medical Center is operating in the black for the first time in years and has improved safety and quality of care since merging with Novant Health, hospital president Dari Caldwell said.

Five years after the merger, Caldwell said Rowan Regional is out of debt, has increased its market share and scores well on safety and clinical care measurements.

“In 2007, the hospital was struggling financially with tremendous debt,” said Caldwell, who met with several Rowan County mayors Friday to tout the improvements since merger.

Novant has contributed $95 million to pay off Rowan Regional’s debt, as well as giving $5 million to the hospital foundation. Novant also has invested more than $150 million in capital projects at the hospital, including new equipment and building renovations.

Rowan Regional now has 391 certified practitioners — including doctors, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and physician assistants — up from 295 in 2008, Caldwell said.

But Rowan still needs more doctors, especially primary care physicians.

“One of my greatest challenges is physician recruitment,” Caldwell said. “… I spend more time on this than anything else.”

Medical schools are not graduating enough doctors, and recruiting physicians to a smaller community can be difficult, she said.

However, just before Caldwell met with the mayors, she learned Rowan had nabbed a new physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.

Three new primary care practices have opened in or near Rowan County since 2008 in Granite Quarry, Kannapolis and China Grove.

This year, Rowan Regional will expand Farrington Family Medical Center in Salisbury and Dr. David Caron’s practice in Granite Quarry. An expansion in Cleveland is under review, and Mayor Barbara Mallett reminded Caldwell that she promised to put a doctor in East Spencer.

Rowan Regional’s quality score — based on 42 measurements taken by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — increased from 81 percent in 2008 to 93 percent last year.

Now the fifth largest employer in Rowan County, Rowan Regional has 1,083 employees including 450 nurses, with 1,405 total employees including all Novant physician practices.

Caldwell estimated the hospital’s direct economic impact on the community at $10.5 million, including $7.3 million worth of goods and services purchased from Rowan County businesses, $2.6 million in property leases and $367,000 in water-sewer fees.

Before the merger with Novant, Rowan Regional had an accident rate of 1.67 for every 10,000 patient days. Caldwell said the hospital set a goal to reduce serious safety events by 80 percent.

The rate has fallen to zero, and Rowan Regional has gone one year with no serious safety events, she said.

Harold Earnhardt, chairman of the hospital board of directors, said Rowan Regional made the right decision five years ago by choosing to merge with Novant.

“We felt it was the right choice at the time, and we still feel like we made the right choice,” Earnhardt said. “There is no doubt in our mind. It’s been proven.”

Mayors at the meeting included Mallett, Paul Woodson of Salisbury, Don Bringle of China Grove, Beau Taylor of Rockwell and Mary Ponds of Granite Quarry.

“Put the word out,” Earnhardt told them.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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