New Hanover Regional Medical Center plans to open the NHRMC Wound Care & Hyperbarics facility this year on South 17th Street.
Crews with Bordeaux Construction Company Inc. are working on a major renovation of the former NHRMC Foundation office at 2259 S. 17th St., at the Medical Mall in Wilmington, to create the new center. The foundation moved to the hospital's business annex at 2001 S. 17th St.
The renovated facility is scheduled to open in November and will offer outpatient wound therapy and hyperbaric treatments. The center is a partnership between NHRMC and RestorixHealth, a White Plains, New York-based company that develops and manages wound care facilities. NHRMC will own and operate the center and provide the clinical staff and RestorixHealth will manage it.
NHRMC officials "saw a growing number of wound care patients in the community and there was a gap in services because we didn't have a dedicated outpatient wound care center, so treatments have been offered in private practices and different offices with multiple physicians treating wounds in Wilmington," said Claire Parker, NHRMC spokeswoman.
She said patients needing hyperbaric treatment have had to be referred outside of the city of Wilmington, including the Wound Care Center at Dosher Memorial Hospital in Southport and facilities in Jacksonville or at Duke or Chapel Hill.
According to the Mayo Clinic, hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube and is a well-established treatment for conditions such as serious infections and wounds that won't heal as a result of diabetes, radiation damage or other problems.
The new NHRMC facility represents a continuing emphasis on consolidation of care, Parker said. NHRMC officials were unable to provide a cost estimate for the facility as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We knew we could improve the health of the community by providing it," she said.
Wounds are eventually going to be an epidemic in the U.S., in major part because of the growing number of people who are diabetic, said John Stone, director of the Wound Care Center at Dosher Memorial.
"Diabetes is on a massive rise. I think 30 percent of this country is now considered pre-diabetic or diabetic. These patients end up with wounds because they slowly lose circulation in their feet," Stone explained.
Once the circulation stops, the nerves die. Some begin to stand and walk differently and develop ulcers.
The center at Dosher Memorial, managed by national wound care management company Healogics, began seeing patients in 2014
. While 50 to 60 percent of the center's patients are diabetic, other illnesses can cause wounds that need advanced treatment, including autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, Stone said. The Dosher center also has two hyperbaric chambers.
Through August, the first 11 months of the hospital's fiscal year, the center had 2,281 patient visits, 19 percent more than its fiscal year 2016. As of Wednesday, the center has had a total of 6,000 patient visits, Stone said.
"Communities routinely underestimate it [the need for wound care] because our patients are literally homebound with these wounds, and you know, traditional physicians don't know how to treat them," he said. "I think the average medical school spends [a total of] eight hours on wound care."
The main goal of wound centers is to save limbs, he said, and the Wound Care Center at Dosher Memorial has a 97 percent heal rate.
"If we can heal a wound now, that means we can prevent an amputation later on, and those amputations have catastrophic health effects," Stone said. "They lose that little bit of mobility they had, their health takes a tumble...the longer we can keep these patients mobile, the better their lives will be and the longer they'll live."