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Goldsboro mental hospital to open three years late

Posted June 2

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— A new Cherry Hospital will begin accepting patients in the fall, state officials said Thursday, more than three years after the $138 million mental health facility in Goldsboro was supposed to open.

The announcement from the state Department of Health and Human Services followed a news conference by several eastern North Carolina lawmakers demanding answers for repeated delays in Cherry's reopening.

"This is unacceptable to us. This is unacceptable to taxpayers and unacceptable to the citizens of eastern North Carolina that could benefit from its use," said Rep. John Bell IV, R-Wayne. "We stand here today as concerned legislators wanting answers to those responsible for the mismanagement of this project."

Construction on the 316-bed hospital started in October 2010 to replace an aging facility that had been plagued by charges of patient abuse and questionable deaths. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revoked the previous hospital's certification in 2008 after a patient died.

The new Cherry Hospital was supposed to open in 2013. After numerous delays, DHHS pushed the reopening back to end of 2015.

DHHS officials blamed the general contractor, Archer Western, for the delays, noting an electrical subcontractor defaulted, which created a chain-reaction backup on the project. But lawmakers said they've gotten conflicting stories and had been unsuccessful in getting a new opening date out of DHHS.

"I am making it a major priority to ensure the people of eastern North Carolina have access to a quality mental health facility and quality care at the facility," Bell said.

DHHS spokeswoman Alexandra Lefebvre said the state expects to receive its final occupancy permit on the hospital by July 1. Then, it will take about three months to train staff before patients can move in, she said.

The new Cherry Hospital provides 117 more beds than the old facility and creates 373 jobs, Lefebvre said. More than 100 of those positions have already been filled.

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