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Franklin Medical Center to close next week

Posted October 7, 2015

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— Novant Health announced Wednesday that it plans to close Franklin Medical Center in Louisburg at the end of next week. The move will leave Franklin County without a hospital.

Franklin Medical Center stopped admitting patients at 6 p.m., but officials said the emergency room would continue to see new patients until 7 a.m. Oct. 16. Hospital administrators will be working over the next nine days to discharge patients or transfer them to other health care facilities.

"The decision to close a hospital may be the most difficult one a health system ever faces," Patrick Easterling, senior vice president at Winston-Salem-based Novant, said in a statement. "We care deeply about our patients and the communities we serve, and this is something we take very seriously. Unfortunately, utilization of Franklin Medical Center has declined significantly over several years. Despite an outstanding staff, investments in the facility, and a reconfiguration of hospital services last fall, we were unable to create a sustainable model. As we prepare to close our doors, we are committed to doing whatever we can to help our patients and our employees during this time of transition."

A year ago, Novant eliminated most inpatient care at Franklin Medical Center, shifting the facility's focus to outpatient and emergency services. The hospital kept only 15 inpatient beds – down from 70 – and 13 of those were reserved for older patients with dementia or other behavioral problems.

"It really affected the town," said Louisburg resident, Hannah Bethea. "People had to move out maybe. People had to find jobs elsewhere."

Since then, officials said, Novant has debated the future of the hospital and possible alternatives to keep the doors open. But national health care trends, such as a growing emphasis on outpatient services and reduced reimbursements from government and private insurers, combined with the proximity of health care providers in Wake, Nash and Vance counties, necessitated the closure, they said.

People in town said that there were rumors that the hospital could close. Now that they know for sure, they are concerned that they are losing a life-saver.

"I think it is sad that it is gone," said Bethea.

Bethea has always known that, in an emergency, help is across the street, but it will not be there much longer.

"It could mean life or death, I think, if you are somewhere you can't get to another emergency room," said Bethea.

About 140 hospital employees will be laid off, and Novant officials said the workers would receive outplacement assistance from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Novant Health Perry Medders Medical Group, an internal medicine practice, and Novant Health Franklin General & Vascular Surgery will remain open until Dec. 7 to provide patients time to find new health care providers. After that, the two Louisburg medical offices could convert to private practices, officials said.

Last year, Vidant Pungo Hospital in Beaufort County closed, and its owner also cited financial difficulties faced by rural hospitals.

Belhaven Mayor Adam O'Neal walked to Washington, D.C., and to Raleigh to raise awareness of the problems his town faced without easy access to a hospital, and the General Assembly passed legislation this summer – Gov. Pat McCrory hasn't yet signed it – that would allow the hospital to bypass some state regulations and reopen if the local community can raise the needed money.

Louisburg Mayor pro tem Boyd Sturges said local leaders have not given up hope.

"I think the folks in the county are going to work very hard and I think that certainly there needs to be a hospital iN Louisburg for the underserved medical populations that need it," said Sturges.

The website for Franklin Medical Center now just lists the closing announcement and a link to request medical records.

19 Comments

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  • Roy Hinkley Oct 8, 2015
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    My point was that this isn't an ACA side-effect. It's been happening for a while, and is due to many factors outside of the ACA (consolidation/mergers, low levels of use/occupancy,etc). Pundits like to point out how many rural hospitals have closed since the ACA started, but they never want to talk about the long term trend.

  • Chris Perry Oct 8, 2015
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    Maybe there are not many left to close.

  • Tripp Weiland Oct 8, 2015
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    Of course none of the posters blaming the ACA will look at actual facts to realize this has been a trend long before the ACA. They just want to blame the Persident. Don't blame the GOP gov that refused to expande Medicaid. That would not fit the right wing narrative. So ignore the inconvenient facts, and blame the Pres.

  • Roy Hinkley Oct 8, 2015
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    According to the Sheps Center there have been 57 rural hospital closures since January 2010 (average of 12/year) .

    According to HHS, 208 closed between 1990 and 2000 (average of 21/year).

    Perhaps the ACA is actually slowing the closure rate eh?

  • Mark Hubbard Oct 8, 2015
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    People blaming the ACA are need to understand that 1)lower payments for Medicare and Medicaid and patients are supposed to be offset by an expanded Medicaid..something that NC refused to do as is the case with most of the other states rural hospitals have closed in and 2)you're precious reference to these lower payments, implies a desire for a social welfare system to well, be here and function in a way you want it to.

  • Jerry Powell Oct 7, 2015
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    Maybe this could become a facility for Involuntary Commitment patients. All we hear about the mental health system is not enough beds, well here is a building with beds... Here is what I see that nobody is talking about.. Perry-Medders med group is closing. That means that many (including my wife and I) will now have to find a new GP/PA. That will hurt the community more than losing the hospital.

  • Tom Laurence Oct 7, 2015
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    I agree that a business has the right to cover its expenses. As a former employee of a large Hospital system in the Triangle, the county we were in made certain that there was a certain amount of "Charity Care" budgeted to cover un-insusred and under-insured. Maybe this Hospital's parent company did not do that....who knows. But if they really didn't have enough business to cover their costs - one cannot blame them. Its a bad situation for Franklin County. Still hoping a larger hospital system will step up and purchase the facility or partner with Novant. Everyone take care.

  • Deneise Sims Oct 7, 2015
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    I'm hoping Duke Lifepoint will take over.

  • Theodore Bush III Oct 7, 2015
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    Not surprised at this development at all. This hospital (known then as Franklin Regional) tried to move to a location near US-1 and Highway 96 in Youngsville back in 2007. Their request to move was denied repeatedly by the state. Rex Healthcare had partnered with Franklin Medical Center (FMC) back then to try to assist in moving them but they were still denied. FMC wanted to move to Youngsville back then because that is where the growth was and still is occurring in Franklin County. Residents in southern Franklin County near US-1 do not go to FMC in Louisburg for services/treatment, they drive into Wake County. FMC even proposed to keep a satellite medical facility open at their current location in Louisburg in addition to the new hospital they wanted to open in Youngsville but the state still denied the request, with Louisburg officials even suing Rex Healthcare to block the move. They tried to go where the growth was and were blocked. So now the county has no hospital.

  • Dirk Snedly Oct 7, 2015
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    This was never a mystery. It was an inevitable consequence of the "Affordable Care Act".

    What did people expect? Why should doctors or any business operate at a financial loss?

    Who is supposed to pay the bills? "Government"???

    Simple minded people can come up with a never ending list of nonsensical reasons why someone else should be made to pay, anyone but themselves.

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