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Franklin’s new hospital on track to open in 2022

In the fall of 2019, representatives from Angel Medical Center and HCA spoke to the Franklin Town Council regarding plans for the new Angel Medical Center location on 441 across from the new Bojangles at the intersection of 441 and Hunnicut Lane in Franklin. In September 2019, AMC officials reported that the new facility would not exceed the 30-bed capacity of the current Angel Medical Center, rooms will be larger and equipment will be upgraded and expanded services and structural and safety requirements will be met when the new building is ready in the third quarter of 2022. 

Just a few months later, COVID19 began to ravage communities around the world, and the focus of healthcare systems quickly shifted to addressing the pandemic. Most of 2020 were dedicated to the pandemic, which resulted in plans for the new AMC facility being placed temporarily on hold. 

Franklin Mayor Bob Scott had a meeting with hospital executives recently to share his concerns regarding the delay, and according to Nancy Lindell with HCA, plans for the hospital are back on track. 

“We do plan to do a groundbreaking ceremony in April and construction will start in May; we are still on track for the original completion target of 2022,” said Lindell. 

Construction is estimated to take 2 years on the $68 million facility.

As mentioned in September 2019, the new hospital will still be a critical access hospital and will have 30 rooms, 25 for inpatient care and 5 for observation care.    

Both the current AMC facility and the new facility are considered to be critical access hospitals. Critical Access Hospital is a designation given to eligible rural hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Congress created the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation through the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-33) in response to a string of rural hospital closures during the 1980s and early 1990s. The CAH designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. To accomplish this goal, CAHs receive certain benefits, such as cost-based reimbursement for Medicare services.

The CAH designation comes with a limitation on what services the hospital can provide as well as how many rooms the facility can have. A CAH must have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds — which is the number proposed for the new facility. CAH must also maintain an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients while providing 24/7 emergency care services. 

Although the new facility does not mean the return of labor and delivery for Macon County residents, HCA has partnered with Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) for a women’s health care center in Franklin. MAHEC opened its new office in the 56 Building on January 6th.  Suzanne Dixon, MD, OB-GYN will be providing prenatal, postnatal, and GYN care.

The new facility will also have an all-weather helicopter pad to serve a new helicopter from Mission. Mission Health’s Mountain Area Medical Airlift (MAMA)’s new helicopter is an upgrade from an Airbus EC135 to an Airbus EC145. The EC145 has more interior space giving nurses and paramedics better access to patients. It also carries more fuel increasing MAMA’s range, more powerful engines for a higher payload capacity, and more sophisticated instruments.

Since 1986, Mission Health’s MAMA helicopter has transported critically injured or ill patients. MAMA stands for Mountain Area Medical Airlift.

The new helicopter is larger than the previous helicopter used as MAMA and that means it has more room for the patient and the crew, according to John Grindstaff, supervisor for Mission’s air medical services.

It is able to safely land in the same size area as the current MAMA aircraft and has a 31% larger patient care area.

“We have more sophisticated instruments so we can fly in weather we couldn’t fly in before. It has more power and can carry more fuel, and we have 100% patient access that we didn’t have before because we didn’t have the space. Now we can reach more people and give better patient care. It’s been on our wish list for a while and I sleep better now that we have it.”

MAMA has bases at Mission Hospital in Asheville and Angel Medical Center in Franklin. Grindstaff said it takes about an hour and twenty minutes to drive the 68 miles between the two without traffic, but it’s a 25-minute flight. He said when patients are suffering from stroke, STEMI, or trauma; every second counts.

“Weather is always a factor but it won’t be as much of a factor because you have more fuel and it has more sophisticated instruments,” said Grindstaff.

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