An Open Letter to Our Community from Greg Lowe, President of North Carolina Division

Our promise to preserve and advance the quality of care, and to navigate the changing needs of our western North Carolina communities is steadfast. It’s been our commitment for more than 134 years, and it continues to guide our decisions today.

We, at Mission Health, and the HCA Healthcare family have cared for others during their most difficult times and we’re prepared for anything that may lie ahead both this year and beyond.

On Sunday, March 1, we shared with our community an open letter from Greg Lowe, president of North Carolina Division, addressing the heartfelt concerns that our communities and team members have raised.

We want to give you, our team members, an opportunity to also read this letter – to see the progress we have made over the past year and what we have in store for the future. Thank you for continuing to show up every day and for always providing exceptional care to our patients.

An Open Letter to Our Community

Over the past few weeks, we have heard heartfelt concerns from members of our community and our own team about the present and future of Mission Health and its transition to HCA Healthcare. I want to assure you that our commitment to our patients across western North Carolina remains steadfast and at the forefront of all we do.

Mission Health and HCA Healthcare understand the enormous trust placed in us to serve this community through the provision of excellent healthcare, and we take our responsibility very seriously. We’ve listened to the passionate feedback shared by our team members and the community we serve, and we welcome this opportunity to share with you some important reflections on the first year of our new partnership and to address the comments we have heard.

We knew this transition would be challenging at times and, as with any healthcare system acquisition, change would be inevitable. It’s helpful to remember that Mission Health selected HCA Healthcare as a partner because it offered the financial stability to help preserve and expand the high-quality healthcare our friends and families have come to expect from Mission Health. The promises we agreed to at the time of the sale were critical to this decision, and our mutual commitment to them is unwavering.

This past year has been one of intensive learning from each other as we have worked collaboratively through many changes and challenges. We know we can create more opportunities to hear from our community and our teams while keeping these important stakeholders more informed about what we are doing and why. Improving our communication with our communities and our team members is critical to our ongoing success.

In that spirit, I’d like to share with you more details about some of what we’ve experienced at Mission Health since last February:

  • With our more favorable patient financial assistance policies, we provided approximately $252 million in charity care, uninsured discounts and other financial assistance in our first full year of operation. This represents approximately $100 million more under the new HCA Healthcare policy than under Mission Health’s prior policy. You can find out more about our financial assistance programs, which we’ve recently made more accessible, via the main page of our website, missionhealth.org.
  • Across the 18 counties we serve, we’ve recruited more than 100 new providers (47 new physicians and 66 new advanced practice providers) over the past year, including some hard-to-fill positions in our regional hospitals serving the more rural areas of our community. Among these is a full-time primary care physician starting in May 2020 to serve the Cashiers community.
  • At Mission Hospital in Asheville, we’ve seen both our inpatient admissions and emergency room visits grow by more than 10% in 2019. To meet this significant growth, we have hired hundreds of RNs, as well as other bedside caregivers and support team members. This includes staffing our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to a higher level to ensure the most critically ill newborns have the care they need.
  • Because of this rapid growth, we’ve also brought in a number of traveling nurses to meet the volume growth demand while we are diligently recruiting more full-time nursing staff.
  • We recently adjusted our approach to deploying Health Unit Coordinators (HUC) and Patient Care Technicians (CNAs) to better support our RNs on the nursing units.
  • In October, we completed and opened the Mission Hospital North Tower, the culmination of more than eight years of planning and construction. While this beautiful new state-of-the-art facility means we’ve brought most of our inpatient services under one roof, integrating it into our staffing and processes meant a very complex transition for our staff to navigate.
  • The new facility has also increased the need for environmental services (housekeeping) team members at Mission Hospital; we’ve filled 35 open positions on that team since January and are currently hiring for additional positions to meet the increased demand.
  • To help recruit and retain our team members, we increased the minimum wage across Mission Health to $12.50/hour last fall. Additionally, we recently provided further targeted market adjustments to raise the pay of hundreds of people in critical roles that help support excellent care at the bedside.
  • We’ve added ways to reward our staff. In 2019, we implemented HCA Healthcare’s student loan repayment program to date, the program has contributed nearly $700,000 to our eligible team members. And, we’ve recently implemented HCA Healthcare’s tuition reimbursement program, through which full- and part-time team members can qualify for up to $5,250 per calendar year – that’s double Mission Health’s prior program – in tax-free reimbursement for applicable higher education courses, including tuition, books and course-related fees.
  • We know there have been concerns about our initial decision to close the CarePartners Wheelchair Seating Clinic because of its heavy dependence on grants that we are no longer able to accept. As we reconsidered this decision, we realized we may have moved quickly without having an alternative option readily available to patients. The clinic has continued to serve those patients with the highest needs during a transition period. And now, we are delighted that another community provider has agreed to assume operations of the clinic; we expect to have a more detailed announcement about this very soon.
  • We have invested $280 million in capital funding to support the delivery of care through state-of-the-art technology.
  • We paid $8.9 million in new property taxes for 2019, providing resources that were previously unavailable to our communities that now help fun vital services and infrastructure needs throughout western North Carolina.
  • During the past year, we’ve helped western North Carolina welcome more than 4,000 new babies and have stood side-by-side with family members and friends as we delivered lifesaving care with advanced technology.

It’s certain there will be more challenges to come as we continue this journey together. What’s even more certain is our commitment to working with you to preserve and advance the quality of care, and to navigate the changing needs of our western North Carolina communities. That’s been our commitment for more than 134 years, and it continues to guide our decisions today.

We commit to being open as we respond to feedback, to continue listening to our community and to do a better job of providing updates about our health system. We are all Mission Health, and I hope you will join me in continuing to support this vital community resource as we continue to grow and improve for you.

Sincerely,

Greg Lowe

President

North Carolina Division

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