Living treasures and hospital duels

Lives well lived: Chad Eaton, director of public affairs for Congressman Heath Shuler, presented three local centenarians with flags he said had been flown above the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in their honor. Photo by Charles Cutler, courtesy of Park Ridge Health marketing

Live long enough to be honored: Three Western North Carolina centenarians were honored May 24 at a Century Club Celebration at Park Ridge Health in Hendersonville.

Grace Goodell
, 102, Helen Adwin, 100, and Carol Hoyt, 101, received congratulation letters on behalf of Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, as well as Rep. Heath ShulerChad Eaton, director of public affairs for Shuler, also presented the elders with flags he said had been flown above the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in their honor.

Organizers said that about 65 centenarians currently live in WNC. Last year, a similar celebration drew about 20 of them, but this year, many were not able to attend due to transportation and health issues.

The number of people reaching the 100-year mark is on the rise, according to the Census Bureau. As of Dec. 1, 2010,  the U.S. had about 72,000 people in the triple-digit age group, an increase from two decades ago, when only about 15 in every 100,000 Americans had reached 100, according to figures reported by the Associated Press. Experts often credit the longer life spans to a combination of better medical care, lower childhood-mortality rates, good genes and good health decisions, such as not smoking.

Asked to share her secret to living a long and happy life, Hoyt advised attendees to “Pick out something you like to do and do it well.”

The event was part of national Older Americans Month, which aims to “show appreciation and support for our seniors as they continue to enrich and strengthen our communities,” according to the website of the same name. The local Century Club Celebration was sponsored by the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, the Area Agency on Aging, the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, the Madison County Health Department, the Transylvania County Department of Public Health and Park Ridge Health.

“We’re delighted to be part of this celebration,” said Park Ridge CEO Jimm Bunch as attendees began the luncheon. “We’re all about health and you’ve lived to be a healthy 100. And we congratulate you for it.” (Incidentally, Park Ridge — part of the Adventist Health System — has been in WNC for 101 years.)

Dueling hospitals?

In more controversial news, Bunch co-signed a letter sent to Gov. Bev Purdue and N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Lanier Cansler, urging them to “curtail the perceived predatory business practices currently undertaken by Mission” Health System. Bunch’s co-authors were 21st Century Oncology’s Barton Paschal and HOPE Women’s Cancer Center’s Nathan Williams.

Legislation proposed by state Rep. Jim Davis of Franklin (see “The COPA Debate,” May 3 Xpress) would place a moratorium on Mission’s acquisitions, mergers and partnerships, and cut by half the number of local physicians it can employ.

“The WNC Community Healthcare Initiative, a local grassroots group of healthcare providers, called upon [Perdue and Cansler] to address concerns raised by a State-commissioned study about Mission Health System’s business practices in Western North Carolina,” a press release put out by the group read. “The hand-delivered letter stressed the State’s failure to provide proper oversight of Mission’s activities given the hospital’s immunity from state and federal antitrust laws under the Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) agreement” that allowed Mission to merge with St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1995.

Park Ridge is owned by Adventist Health Systems, based in Illinois and operating healthcare facilities in 12 states totaling more than 8,000 beds. Hospitals in Haywood, Jackson and Swain counties are part of the MedWest system, which is managed by the 6,000-bed, Charlotte-based Carolinas Health. Mission owns at least two other small hospitals in Western North Carolina — McDowell Hospital and Blue Ridge Community Health. The 1995 COPA places Mission under state oversight by the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the Department of Justice.

Meanwhile, Angel Medical Center CEO Tim Hubbs, intervewed by Xpress in its May 17 issue, said his Franklin hospital needs a partnership with Mission. As Davis’ bill went on to committee review and before WNC CHI delivered the letter to Perdue and Cansler, the community hospital moved forward with a partnership agreement: On May 21, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that Angel officials did indeed agree to be managed by Mission.
The WNC Community Healthcare Initiative has set up a website on the issue (wncchoice.com), and Mission has released a statement as well, which you can find online at http://avl.mx/3a. For links to Rep. Davis’ bill and the February study referenced by WNC CHI, go mountainx.com at go to http://bit.ly/igQ2u7.

— Send your health-and-wellness news to mxhealth@mountainx.com or news@mountainx.com, or call News Editor Margaret Williams at 251-1333, ext. 152.I

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