New Hanover Regional Medical Center officials are keeping their options open when it comes to future uses for the former Cape Fear Hospital site at 5301 Wrightsville Ave. in Wilmington.
“We’re still evaluating the long-term plan for the property,” Carolyn Fisher, spokeswoman for New Hanover Regional, said in an email response to questions.
A new orthopedic hospital currently under construction on top of the Surgical Pavilion on the hospital system’s main campus on South 17th Street will mean the transfer of existing services from the current NHRMC Orthopedic Hospital upon its completion, Fisher said.
“While the new orthopedic hospital will take the inpatient orthopedic cases out of the Cape Fear campus when it opens late next year, the emergency department and some other services will remain there for the foreseeable future,” Fisher wrote.
Meanwhile, a group of residents has a plan for continued use of the Wrightsville Avenue building as a medical facility and is seeking NHRMC as a primary partner.
The group has put together a Cape Fear Hospital site development proposal called Safe Haven. Its goal is to “address the crisis in affordable and workforce housing that disproportionately impacts veterans, the elderly and disabled by developing [Cape Fear Hospital] into an integrated medical and housing complex while providing needed higher education clinical training experiences.”
Tom Conway, a member of the group steering committee who serves as spokesman, said he believes its “citizen volunteers” should have a voice in shaping future use of the property.
A first step in the planning process is meeting with NHRMC administrators to present possible options, Conway said.
New Hanover Regional is a public hospital, and a focus of the group is to get the community involved in the “wider conversation” about its future, he said.
The Safe Haven proposal includes three “core pillars” that could serve as a basis for partnership with other health care providers.
The medical care provision references the retention of urgent care and primary care services and also keeping laboratory and radiology services on-site “as revenue streams with consideration for training partnerships, including forensic and drug testing areas.”
The education/training provision calls for registered nursing, psychology, social work and recreation therapy as a training site for students, as options to be offered at Cape Fear Hospital in partnership with local providers.
Housing is the third “core pillar” presented as a use for the hospital. The property could include “affordable units along the continuum of care for elderly and the disabled where residents can step up to accommodate more intensive needs from single-family to assisted living,” ultimately to include “24-hour supervised dementia or respite care.”
Veteran-specific housing “to meet needs of disabled or homeless veterans” and student housing offering training opportunities in partnership with schools like UNCW are also options.
The Safe Haven steering committee has spoken with about 75 community leaders and residents to get their input, Conway said. The general consensus is the wish to keep the 17.8-acre Cape Fear Hospital campus in use as a medical facility as opposed to its sale to a developer, he said.
The Safe Haven proposal was put together last year. NHRMC officials announced the planned construction of the more than $80 million orthopedic hospital in 2016 and the eventual closure of NHRMC Orthopedic Hospital.
“What we’re talking about here is augmenting and reusing the site and some of the buildings,” Conway said. “We would like the opportunity to meet with senior management of [NHRMC] at the earliest possible date.”
Fisher said the hospital system’s immediate goal is uninterrupted service as the new orthopedic hospital is built.