CLINTON, N.C. — Many hospitals in rural eastern North Carolina now have stronger ties with each other and with WakeMed in Raleigh.
The Southern Atlantic Health Care Alliance connects WakeMed with 13 rural community hospitals. The idea is to learn from each other and get the upper hand on the rising cost of the latest technologies.
Darlene Smith, of Clinton, has congestive heart failure. A heart cauterization at Sampson Regional Hospital revealed she has no blockages.
WakeMed cardiologist Dr. Bill Newman performed the cauterization in a mobile cath lab behind the hospital.
"It was nice doing it here so I didn't have to go all the way to Raleigh," Smith said.
The mobile unit is available at Sampson Regional every Tuesday, then heads to other rural hospitals.
"There's no operating room back up here, but these patients can be done safely here when properly screened," said Dr. Bill Newman, a WakeMed cardiologist.
The arrangement is just one benefit of the Southern Atlantic Health Care Alliance of 14 hospitals throughout eastern North Carolina.
WakeMed is the only tertiary care facility in the group, but hospital each has equal status in the alliance.
"That WakeMed will learn as much from us as we will learn from them -- and we will learn from each other," said Larry Chewning, Sampson Regional Hospital CEO.
Through regular meetings, doctors and staff at various hospitals share their experiences and news of medical advances spread more quickly. They also coordinate the purchase of material and equipment.
"That we think there are some deals to be had by buying in quantity and bringing our collective weight to bear," Chewning said.
That means lower costs for each hospital and in the long run, a better deal for patients.
There has been lots of recent news about mergers and alliances between hospitals. For example, Rex Hospital in Raleigh is owned by University of North Carolina Hospitals. Duke Medical Center recently expanded into Raleigh Community Hospital, now called Duke Raleigh Health.