EDC Board hears from CMH's Easton

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 08:24 AM

Discussing the changes occurring within the health care industry, Caldwell Memorial Hospital President and CEO Laura Easton met with the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission Board of Directors on Tuesday at the J.E. Broyhill Civic Center in Lenoir.

A primary area of focus was the decision last month for CMH to join the Chapel Hill-based University of North Carolina Health Care System. The proposed agreement is expected to be finalized during the first half of next year.

Easton said the agreement with UNC includes a commitment of $35 million over five years for capital improvements, along with a $4 million contribution to the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation. The non-profit health care facility currently employs approximately 900 full-time and part-time staff members, making CMH one of the largest employers in the county.

In her remarks, Easton said dynamic changes are occurring within the health care sector, particularly for providers – such as CMH – that have a large percentage of their services covered by federal or state programs.

“We really tried to think through how we could be responsible to our community,” Easton said of the process utilized in finding a health care partner.

For CMH, Easton said the agreement will assist in the recruitment of high-quality physicians. She noted that UNC’s medical program is regarded as one of the top teaching schools in the nation, adding that there will be opportunities for students to participate in their training through CMH.

Another factor in the move, Easton said, is the increase in overall scale through being with the UNC system. By having more leverage as part of a larger group, she said the hope is to reduce expenses and improve purchasing ability.

The third factor, according to Easton, is the commitment by UNC to invest in the CMH facility in order to sustain the hospital’s efforts to remain a high-quality organization.

As for the UNC system, Easton noted that the school wanted to maintain its ability to train new physicians. At the same time, she said UNC has been looking to improve its overall scale and has been engaged in several recent partnership agreements with facilities across the state.

Easton said referral patterns will not be affected, nor will significant changes occur in the way the hospital is governed.

“Caldwell Memorial Hospital will remain a non-profit organization,” she said. “The composition of the local board will essentially be the same as now.”

Though some partnerships could be affected, Easton said current agreements involving the McCreary Cancer Center with Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the cardiology services through Asheville-based Mission Health will remain a strong part of the community.

In fact, Easton said, she has received a dozen inquiries from doctors interested in joining the CMH Physician Network since the agreement with UNC was announced.

Caldwell County EDC Board Chairman William Howard applauded the steps being taken by CMH to ensure its viability for years to come.

“We are all fortunate to have a strong, visible, futuristically-thinking hospital,” Howard said. “It truly is a community hospital.”

In other business, the EDC Board approved modifications to the organization’s bylaws that will be submitted to the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners for approval.