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Medical center appeals state's denial for southern hospital

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
Rowan Regional Medical Center and Novant Health have appealed the state’s denial of their application to build a community hospital in the southern part of the county.
Michael C. Burton, director of corporate communications for Rowan Regional, said the appeal was filed last Thursday with the Certificate of Need Section of the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation, which announced the denial in a 119-page report released on April 8.
“We believe the decision is flawed and that we’ve established the need for a community hospital in southern Rowan County,” he said. “Kannapolis is one of the largest towns in North Carolina without its own hospital, so that’s why we think it’s important to build it in that area but still keep it in Rowan County.”
Carol Hutchison, project analyst for the Rowan Regional South application, said a ruling on the appeal could take as long as 270 to 300 days. The case could be settled in mediation, she said, or an administrative hearing after depositions from the applicants and project analysts.
“The state is favorable to trying to settle differences if they can be settled,” Hutchison said. “I think that’s always the first step.”
The six-page appeal states that based upon the applicants’ knowledge at this time, the Certificate of Need Section “exceeded its authority and jurisdiction, acted erroneously, failed to use proper procedure, acted arbitrarily and capriciously and failed to act as required by law or rule” in failing to approve the application for Rowan Regional South.
One of the reasons cited was that the state had failed to consider the extensive community and physician support for the hospital, related at public hearings and letters to the Certificate of Need Section. Burton said letters and e-mails of support were written by thousands of residents, physicians, community leaders, educators and governmental agencies in southern Rowan.
“We think the facility would provide choice and access with 24/7 health care services that only an acute-care hospital can offer,” he said. “Rowan Regional has a responsibility to provide hospital services for all the people in Rowan County, not just the northern part where we currently have our main facility.”
The state contends in its report denying the application that the numbers submitted by Rowan Regional and Novant just didn’t add up.
Although the application states the intent of the 50-bed hospital would be to serve Rowan residents who cannot be adequately served due to their distance from the Salisbury medical center, the report says the proposed service area would be predominantly in Cabarrus County.
There is already a 457-bed medical center in Cabarrus County, Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast in Concord.
Hutchison said the timeline for the appeal is as follows:
– An administrative law judge or hearing officer for the case must be appointed within 15 days from the date of the appeal.
– The applicants must be provided all information considered in the denial of the Rowan Regional South application within 90 days after the judge or officer is appointed.
– A hearing with sworn testimony must be held within 45 days after the end of the discovery period.
– The administrative law judge or hearing officer has 75 days after the hearing to render a recommendation.
– The Office of Administrative Hearings has 30 days after the recommendation to make a ruling.
Hutchison said the deadlines may be extended as long as all parties are notified. A decision has been extended beyond 300 days, she said, “but that’s unusual.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or kchaffin@salisburypost.com.

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