Xpress sat down with the heads of two local nonprofit news organizations to learn how the business model compares to its for-profit cousin and whether the concept offers a sustainable solution to an industry struggling to hang on.
HCA declined repeated requests for the number of doctors who have left the Mission system since it took over in February 2019 and refuses to say how many doctors are on staff today, other than that the number is “relatively the same.” But Asheville Watchdog identified 223 doctors who appear to be no longer practicing there.
A 2018 memo, obtained via a public records request from the N.C. Attorney General’s office, says the “deck had been stacked” in favor of selling Mission Health to HCA by then-CEO Dr. Ronald A. Paulus.
Xpress, along with the Asheville Citizen Times, Blue Ridge Public Radio, Carolina Public Press and Asheville Watchdog, had incurred nearly $4,200 in attorney fees after suing Asheville over its plan to hold a March 31 City Council retreat behind closed doors.
Since investor-owned HCA Healthcare bought nonprofit Mission Health System in 2019, stories are increasingly common of long waits in the emergency room, unsanitary conditions, broken or missing equipment, patients having to lie in their own urine and feces, doctors leaving because of pay disputes and nurses weeping in the hallways because of stress and chronic understaffing.
HCA Healthcare, which owns and operates Mission Hospital in Asheville, reported this month that it made $1.4 billion in profits for the first three months of 2021, more than double the amount for the same period last year.
Asheville could prosper, believes Mack Pearsall, by monetizing a unique yet little-known asset: Its federal archive of climate and weather data — the largest such collection among all the nations on Earth — curated by a local talent bank that includes several Nobel laureates and scores of climate scientists.
A year has passed since Buncombe County recorded its first Covid-19 death on March 28, 2020. Since then, another 293 people have died. In the official government record, they’ll be remembered as statistics of a pandemic that killed swiftly and indiscriminately, but to their families, friends and neighbors, they were so much more.
Six months ago, as part of a reckoning on racial injustice, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County both passed resolutions to consider reparations to the Black community as a way to begin making amends for slavery and generations of systemic discrimination. Since then, local officials concede, little has been done.
Tax records examined by Asheville Watchdog reveal that in the decade leading up to the $1.5 billion sale of Asheville’s community-owned hospital system, a steadily increasing amount of Mission’s revenue went to salaries and bonuses for an increasingly crowded suite of non-clinical executives.