Buncombe board to vote on support for Mission competitor

Buncombe County seal

For residents of Buncombe County, Mission Health has long been the only game in town when it comes to hospital care. That could change with the applications of nonprofits AdventHealth and Novant Health to build a new hospital in Asheville — moves the county Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to support Tuesday, June 7.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Division of Health Service Regulation has called for the creation of 67 acute care beds in the region including Buncombe by 2024. A letter drafted by Chair Brownie Newman and scheduled for a vote of approval by the full board urges state regulators to favor nonprofit health care systems over HCA Healthcare, which owns Mission, when considering applications to build that capacity.

“Since 1995, Mission has operated as the sole hospital provider in Buncombe County. After the not-for-profit health care system was sold to for-profit HCA in 2019, residents have been increasingly vocal of their desire for improved access and patient choice,” the letter reads. “A new hospital in the Asheville area would mean more choices for patients to receive high-quality health care close to home and more opportunities for dedicated medical professionals to build their careers in our community.”

AdventHealth announced its intent to apply for the new hospital in an April 20 Facebook post; Novant Health has not made a formal announcement, but Newman told WLOS June 2 that Novant would apply as well. Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell confirmed in a recent email to Xpress that HCA would also apply to create the beds.

In other news

Money matters will dominate the public hearings on the board’s agenda. Commenters will have the chance to weigh in on Buncombe’s proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget, which anticipates about $382.5 million in revenue and $399.4 million in spending for the county’s general fund.

According to a presentation available prior to the meeting by Budget Director John Hudson, the numbers are little changed from those recommended by County Manager Avril Pinder May 19. The only substantive difference to the budget is an additional $165,000 in revenue, pledged by the city of Asheville and town of Woodfin, to be spent on the county’s homeowner grant program.

Hearings will also be held on a proposed $70 million in county borrowing. Commissioners will vote whether to schedule November referendums giving citizens a decision on approving $40 million in bonds for affordable housing and $30 million in bonds for land conservation.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 11 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. In addition to the routine approval of previous meeting minutes, the agenda includes the following highlights:

  • Approval of Buncombe’s tax collection report for April. As of April 30, the county had collected 99.30% of all taxes levied for fiscal year 2021-22, up from 99.19% as of the same date in the prior fiscal year.
  • A budget amendment accepting over $134,000 in reimbursement from the N.C. Department of Public Safety for the deployment of a county search-and-rescue team during Tropical Storm Fred. Local fire departments with members on the team will receive over $103,000, with the remainder going to the county to reimburse Emergency Services expenses.
  • A budget amendment accepting $10,000 from the Pigeon River Fund to support education programs run by the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, including the Envirothon and summer camps.

The commissioners will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss items on future agendas. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in Room 326 at 200 College St. in Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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