Mission CEO Ron Paulus says he hopes for no more COPA recommendations

In exactly one week, CEO and President of Mission Health Ron Paulus will know whether his hospital system will continue operating under the only Certificate of Public Advantage in North Carolina, or whether this is the moment he has waited for: the slow phase-out of this agreement.

“My plea is that we don’t just sort of brush this off as some sort of lackadaisical thing that people are uninformed about, or who don’t actually understand the implications of the recommendations,” Paulus said, adding, “But who could know what the implications of the recommendations will be because those recommendations have never been asked or implemented on any other hospital that exists on the face of this earth.”

The recommendations that Paulus referred to were made by the Select Committee on Certificate of Need Process and Related Hospital Issues at a recent March 15 meeting in Raleigh. However, Paulus and the staff of Mission Health will have to wait until April 19 to find out whether this state committee will accept all, some or none of the five recommendations that have been made at this time. At the luncheon, Paulus told the more than 100 people present that he continues to hope that this committee will accept none of the recommendations, thereby freeing Mission Health from the COPA. This idea is one the CEO has encouraged people to support.

In a recent call-to-action, he urged the members of the community and Mission Health caregivers to contact local legislators and state representatives regarding recent recommendations made by the House Select Committee on CON and Hospital Related Issues. At the luncheon, Paulus reported that more than 9,000 letters had been sent to WNC representatives.

“There has to be a way of gracefully ending this,” Paulus affirmed. “Our goal is to have no recommendations. We’d like to get back to the business of taking care of people.”

However, Paulus was not the only one who spoke at the April 12 luncheon sponsored by Mission Health. Lanier Cansler, former Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, had a few things to say about the COPA. Cansler emphasized that the health care system is changing and cited the Affordable Care Act as an example. However, with these changes, Cansler said these changes in health care will require a realigning of the way care is provided. But he also said this realignment should not include the COPA.

“What you can’t do is create a system where you’re creating an advantage that places extra limits on this system while leaving every other system in the state without those limits. It creates a situation that puts Mission in peril,” Cansler asserted. He argued that the legislatures need to remember this evolving system does not have a clear vision yet and that before that vision can be mapped out and planned he warned, “In the meantime, you’ve got to not mess up the playing field.”

Before Cansler spoke, former Mission Health chairman Jack Stevens gave a 120-year history of Mission Health, making sure not to skip over the application of the COPA to Mission and St. Joseph’s hospitals in 1995. Stevens was part of the merger between the two hospitals. However, like Cansler and Paulus, he does not see a need for the COPA any longer. “For the life of me, I can’t understand why some portions of people in the General Assembly want to curtail what Mission is,” he said.

In the meantime, he will be waiting to see the April 19 outcome along with Paulus.

“In some ways, I’m most saddened by the fact that we have this as a distraction. This is taking up a tremendous amount of time. I’m spending one-third to half of my time dealing with these issues with the COPA. It distracts from the core point of our community’s needs,” Paulus said.



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