More people probably would have been in attendance had they known the meeting was taking place. The Smoky Mountain News and other news outlets in Macon County weren’t aware the meeting was taking place until an hour before the meeting started at 10 a.m. at the Robert C. Carpenter Community Building.
Angel Medical Center, a Mission Health affiliated hospital, has filed a certificate of need application with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services seeking approval to develop a replacement hospital in Macon County. Part of that process requires a public hearing to get feedback from the community. DHHS uses the feedback and submitted comments to make its decision on the certificate, but that will be hard to do since no one from the public had the chance to be there.
When asked why none of the newspapers received proper notice of the hearing, which is required under the North Carolina Public Meetings Act, Mission Health spokesperson Cara Truitt said the notice was sent out to media from the N.C. Department of Health Services Regulation.
“The notice of the Certificate of Need Public Hearing was issued and sent to media by the N.C. Department of Health Services Regulation on November 8th. They also posted a Public Notice release on their website,” Truitt said in an email. “We sent out a release regarding the proposed site in early November, and you should have received that from us.”
The Smoky Mountain News reached out to DHHS to see which media outlets are on the list to receive public notices and was instructed to send an email to the Public Affairs office. At press time, no one from Public Affairs had responded to the inquiry.
Mission did email out a press release to all local media outlets on Nov. 1, stating that Angel Medical Center was exploring a possible new hospital location site at 1 Center Court, Franklin, at the intersection of U.S. 441 and Hunnicut Lane. The press release made no mention of a public hearing for the certificate of need, which is needed before AMC can proceed with purchasing the property and constructing a new hospital.
DHHS also booked the room at the community building on Nov. 1, which would imply Mission Health knew about the hearing details when they sent out the press release late that afternoon.
The public notice published on the state website states that AMC proposes to construct a two-story, 82,600-square-foot hospital with 30 acute care beds and three operating rooms. The project is expected to cost $45 million and be completed in October 2021.
Public notice laws also require agencies to run an advertisement in the newspaper of record in the community, which would be The Franklin Press. The public notice was published in the Nov. 8 issue of The Franklin Press in the very back of the classifieds advertising section. The notice was dated Nov. 1 and states that written comments regarding AMC’s certificate application are due by Dec. 1 to the agency.
However, the notice failed to include the name of the agency accepting comments and didn’t include a phone number, physical address, website or email address where people could submit comments. The notice did state the hearing would be held at 10 a.m. Dec. 19, 10 days after the comment deadline, at the Macon County Parks and Rec multi-purpose room, which also doesn’t specifically direct people to the Community Building.
Macon Media made it to the public hearing and recorded the meeting, which only lasted about 20 minutes. It appeared only hospital employees were in attendance along with AMC President Karen Gorby and Mike McKillip, project analyst for Healthcare Planning and Certificate of Need Section of DHHS.
The only two people signed up to offer public comment was Warren Cabe, Macon County’s EMS director and Todd Doster, EMS Coordinator for Macon County EMS. The two county employees spoke in favor of the new hospital location.
The complete video of the meeting is available at www.maconmedia.com.