Statewide: West region, December 2015
Mission Hospital is embarking on one of the largest construction projects in Asheville’s history as it builds a new surgical tower. The $404 million development will create a new emergency department across the street from its current location and modernize Mission’s patient care. Its main location a mile and a half south of downtown Asheville is split into two campuses: Memorial and St. Joseph’s, reflecting the two groups that merged in 1998 to create what is now the state’s sixth largest hospital system with annual revenue of about $1.38 billion and 10,000 employees.
Its existing emergency department has been too small for a long time, partly because of an influx of patients needing mental or behavioral health treatment, says Sonya Greck, a Mission senior vice president. The hospital also wants to reduce waiting times and add operating rooms. Renovation of the outdated facility didn’t make financial sense, Greck says. “When we did the cost analysis, it was much more beneficial and productive to build a new facility,” she says. New technology in the tower will range from improved patient monitoring systems to temperature control.
The new 12-story tower will include about 635,000 square feet and hold 220 patient rooms, along with the expanded emergency room and parking area. The project is being paid for with $203 million in taxable bonds issued in late 2012 and early 2015. Mission, which had a 93% market share in the Asheville area and 43% in its 18-county area, may issue an additional $100 million for the expansion as soon as 2017, according to a Fitch Ratings report in February. Site preparation work will start soon, with the project scheduled to be completed in 2018.
ASHEVILLE — Duke Energy revised a plan to replace its local coal-fired power plant and will build two smaller gas plants instead of one large one. As a result, the utility will not need to construct a 45-mile transmission line that faced opposition from residents in western counties (Statewide, November). The cost of the project is expected to remain unchanged at about $1.1 billion.
SWANNANOA — Warren Wilson College will divest endowment funds over the next five years from companies that mine or sell fossil fuels. The college, which enrolls about 800 undergraduate students and has a $55 million endowment, joins about 25 U.S. colleges and universities, including Brevard College in Transylvania County, in committing to divest (Statewide, April).
ASHEVILLE — The Small Business Administration committed $1.25 million to help Mountain BizWorks expand its loan program for small companies based in western North Carolina that are unable to secure bank loans. Since it was started in 1990, the lender has provided $10.7 million in loans to 782 businesses.
CULLOWHEE — Western Carolina University will partner with Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital to train health care workers for western N.C. counties. The hospitals, which are owned by Brentwood, Tenn.-based Duke LifePoint Healthcare, will pay education costs for three students to enroll in WCU’s nurse practitioner program and will partner on community-education programs and arts functions.