Wellness roundup: AdventHealth approved for new hospital

IT'S DECIDED: AdventHealth announced on Nov. 22 that it will build a new acute care hospital in the Asheville area. Photo courtesy of AdventHealth

AdventHealth has been approved to build a new hospital in Western North Carolina, the company announced on Facebook Nov. 22.

Buncombe, Graham, Madison and Yancey counties will together have a projected need of 67 additional acute care beds by 2024, according to a plan published by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Service Regulation.

In North Carolina, as in 34 other states, health systems must obtain a “certificate of need” from the government before building facilities to provide more health care beds in a community. During the summer, three hospital systems — Adventist Health System Sunbelt Healthcare Corp., which owns AdventHealth, Mission Health/HCA Healthcare and Novant Health — each filed certificate of need applications explaining their proposals to build a new hospital. The NCDHHS held a public comment session about the certificate of need applications Aug. 12.

AdventHealth proposed to develop a new acute care hospital in Candler called AdventHealth Asheville. The application proposed 67 acute care beds, a C-section operating room and five procedure rooms. The project is expected to cost $254.1 million and would be completed in January 2025.

“We want to thank the people of Western North Carolina who shared their overwhelming support for our proposal to build this new community hospital,” AdventHealth’s post said. “Earning your trust is something we do not take lightly, and we will continue to build this trust as we move to the next steps of this project.”

Spokesperson Victoria Dunkle was unable to be reached for comment.

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein shared a Nov. 28 statement about the decision: “Competition in health care lowers cost and improves quality for patients. Mission Health System has virtually no hospital competitors in western North Carolina. That’s why I urged NCDHHS to award the Certificate of Need to a provider other than Mission. My hope is that as a result of NCDHHS’ decision, the people of western North Carolina will benefit from lower costs and better quality of care.”

Public health director moving on

Buncombe County Public Health Director Stacie Saunders is leaving her position at the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services on Dec. 31. She has been with BCDHHS since 2020 and managed the county’s COVID-19 response.

Saunders is joining the N.C. Health and Human Services Division of Public Health as deputy director and section chief for local and community support. In her new role, she will work with local health departments across the state.

“This is an exciting time for me but also one filled with sadness as it is very hard to leave this public health staff, who have become very special to me,” Saunders says in a  press release announcing her departure. “I consider those of us in public health a family.”

BCDHHS will post updates on hiring her successor.

Vets eligible for toxic exposure screenings

Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers nationwide are offering toxic exposure screenings to veterans enrolled in VA health care.

The screening will ask veterans if they believe they were exposed to toxic substances during service, according to a VA press release. Those who answer “yes” will be questioned about specific exposures like Agent Orange, Camp Lejeune contaminated water exposure, Gulf War-related exposures, air pollutants like burn-pit smoke and radiation. Following the screening, eligible veterans will be connected to clinical resources.

For more information about toxic exposures, visit publichealth.va.gov/exposures. To make an appointment at the Charles George Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Asheville, call 828-298-7911.

WNC residents can order free COVID-19 tests

A U.S. Postal Service pilot program is distributing free COVID-19 tests to residents in three WNC zip codes through Jan. 15. Residents in ZIP codes that begin with 287, 288 and 289 can order free, self-swab PCR tests from ineedacovid19test.com.

The initiative is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Increasing Community Access to Testing program. It aims to increase access to COVID-19 testing in high-risk communities and among the uninsured.

Pisgah offers free assistance with open enrollment

Pisgah Legal Services, a nonprofit that provides legal services, and Mountain Projects, is partnering to provide free assistance to people enrolling in plans through the healthcare marketplace.

Certified navigators can help clients understand health care plan options on Healthcare.gov and select the best plan for their needs.

An open enrollment event will be held 12:30-5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Haywood County Public Library (main branch), 678 So. Haywood St., Waynesville. A second session will be from noon-6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Carpenter Community Building, 1288 Georgia Road, Franklin.

Walk-ins are welcome. Clients also can schedule an appointment online at pisgahlegal.org/healthcare, call Pisgah Legal at 828-210-3404 or call Mountain Projects at 828-452-1447.

Movers and shakers

  • Among the 38 recipients of the annual Dogwood Awards presented by N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein are Sarah Gayton of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office for her development of the state’s first medication-assisted treatment program in a detention facility; peer support specialist Maia Hughes for her work with Buncombe County’s medication-assisted treatment program; and state Sen. Julie Mayfield of District 49 for her advocacy for affordable health care. Dogwood Awards are given to “North Carolinians who help to make their communities safer, stronger, and healthier,” according to the attorney general’s website.
  • The National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program honored four Pardee UNC Health Care oncologists at its 2022 national meeting for their commitment to cancer research: Dr. Praveen Vashist; Dr. John Hill; Dr. Navin Anthony; and Dr. Alexander Treemont.
  • Dr. Kayla Williams has joined Harris Medical Associates, a department of Harris Regional Hospital, as a primary care provider. Schedule an appointment  by calling 828-586-8971.
    Southeastern Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, a department of Pardee Hospital, has welcomed Dr. Matthew Wham as a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Wham is accepting new patients. Schedule an appointment at 828-274-4555.

Mark your calendars

  • Homegrown Families: Asheville Childbirth Education and Doula Services, a pregnancy care center, will hold free “stroller mafia” group walks for new parents 5-6:45 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. The walks will start and conclude at New Belgium Brewing, 21 Craven St. For more information, contact MaryKate Bashshaw at marykate@homegrownbabies.com.
  • Sierra Hollister of West Asheville Yoga Studio will teach full moon yoga classes 7-9 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Friday, Jan. 6, in person and online. Tickets can be purchased on a sliding scale from $25-$35 at avl.mx/c5r.
  • Empowered Self Defense, a seven-week course at YWCA Asheville, 185 S. French Broad Ave., is being offered 5:30-6:45 p.m., Thursdays, Jan.11-Feb. 22. Students will learn deescalation strategies, how to listen to intuition and mental, verbal and physical responses. Cost is $60 for YWCA members and $80 for the general public; scholarships are available. For more information contact 828-254-7206, ext. 213.
  • The 15th annual Hot Chocolate Races, a fundraiser benefiting Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization, will be held Saturday, Jan. 21. Races will begin and end at the school, and include a half marathon, 10K, 5K and a “marshmallow dash” for kids 12 and younger. Registration and tickets are available at avl.mx/c5q. For more information, contact info@kickitevents.com.

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About Jessica Wakeman
Jessica Wakeman is an Asheville-based reporter for Mountain Xpress. She has been published in Rolling Stone, Glamour, New York magazine's The Cut, Bustle and many other publications. She was raised in Connecticut and holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from New York University. Follow me @jessicawakeman

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