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Thursday, August 27, 2009

WakeMed's network grows

WakeMed has won regulatory approval to expand its North Raleigh facility and build new medical centers in Garner and Raleigh's Brier Creek area.

Officials with Wake County's largest hospital system are betting on increasing demand as the economy recovers and the region's population grows.

Expansions by other Triangle health systems also are continuing during the downturn, as UNC Health Care System and Duke University Health System request state approval to add services and win new customers. UNC in April proposed a $227 million, 68-bed hospital in Hillsborough.

"Health care is a strong and growing segment of the economy," WakeMed CEO Bill Atkinson said.

"We're trying to balance where we spend time and energy and figure out where we need to be."

Despite the global recession, the Raleigh metropolitan region is holding up relatively well, bolstered by its base of universities and state government.

"To remain successful in our ability to uphold our mission for years to come, we must continue to grow with the community," Atkinson said.

In North Raleigh, Wake Med plans to add 41 beds to its facility that opened in 2002, creating a new full-service hospital and the county's only women's hospital.

Moving ahead with that $34 million project became possible when Novant Health of Winston-Salem recently dropped its appeal of state regulators' January decision to award WakeMed the beds. Novant had filed a certificate of need application to build its own hospital in Holly Springs but was denied.

"Given the complexity of this case, getting the decision overturned and in our favor is near impossible," Novant spokeswoman Kati Everett said in a prepared statement.

"While we strongly believe the residents of Southern Wake County need a community hospital, it is clear our application for Holly Springs Hospital isn't going to win this time."

Holly Springs officials last month filed their own request with state regulators to add 42 hospital beds in Wake County.

WakeMed's strategy centers on adding satellite medical centers in fast-growing suburbs that can serve local patients close to home and send more serious cases to its main hospitals.

WakeMed had applied with state regulators nearly two years ago to build a $26.4 million facility in Garner. The project was initially rejected, but WakeMed appealed and supplied additional data supporting the need for the facility, said Stan Taylor, Wake Med's director of market development.

Hospital officials are still deciding where that facility would go, but one option is at Jones Sausage Road and U.S. 70, near the White Oak shopping center.

WakeMed will build a $36.8 million complex and is considering several parcels of land in the Brier Creek area. Both facilities would include emergency departments, outpatient services and more.

"We're trying to find land that meets all our needs," Taylor said.

"We need to close on land and get the sites nailed down. It's our desire to get these projects moving as quickly as possible."

It will likely be at least late 2010 before any of the new facilities open.