As some area health care providers are dealing with a resurge in COVID-19 cases, they also are trying to move forward with new projects.
Wilmington Eye plans this year to open an outpatient surgery center, Wilmington Health has one under construction and SurgCare is renovating and expanding its ambulatory surgery center as some examples.
Meanwhile, the N.C. General Assembly recently passed a law that makes it somewhat easier for health care providers to add certain procedures, such as outpatient surgery.
When Wilmington Eye opens its new 17th Street facility in November, it will be the area’s first freestanding ambulatory surgery center dedicated to vision procedures. Among the procedures offered will be cataract surgery, cancer reconstructions, strabismus surgery, corneal transplants and oculoplastic surgeries.
According to Wilmington Eye spokesperson Miranda Perales, the surgery center will add 26 new positions in the local health care industry, led by clinical director Ramonia McCann.
“We have had the privilege of working with some amazing partners for the construction of our new ambulatory surgery center,” Perales said.
Architects for the project are Marasco & Associates and EwingCole. Adams Southeastern Construction, the contractor, has worked with Wilmington Eye on several projects, Perales said.
Not far from the new Wilmington Eye facility, Wilmington Health is building an ambulatory surgery center that it hopes will give the community a simpler and less costly alternative for some surgical procedures.
The surgery center on Glen Meade Road will offer procedures in several areas, including orthopedics, OB/ GYN, urology, cardiology, foot and ankle surgery, general surgery, pain management and plastic surgery, said Chris Bunch, Wilmington Health’s chief operating officer.
After resolving a few last-minute issues related to the facility’s building permit, the ambulatory surgery center is on track to open in spring 2022, Bunch said.
“Now that everything’s approved, we’re moving along nicely,” he said. Bunch noted that medical facilities are not your average build.
“The design process is significantly more involved because of the sterilization equipment and the medical equipment that has to be considered and prepared for,” he said. “Well before the construction phase begins, it really has to be considered at the beginning of the design phase.”
And then there are the state regulatory requirements.
“The state has to review the plans and provide comments on the plans,” Bunch said. “There’s a state approval process specific to the nature of the services being provided.”
A new state law makes it easier for facilities to request new procedures. The law, for example, increases from $500,000 to $1.5 million the amount of money a provider can spend on expansions without state approval.
Bunch said he would like to see the state’s certificate-of-need requirements gone but said that the recent move by the legislature was a move in the right direction. New Hanover Regional Medical Center earlier this year received certificate of need approval from the state to build a 66-bed hospital in the Scotts Hill area. That construction is expected to start next year, with an opening around 2024, NHRMC officials said.
One of the biggest health care building projects underway in the area is the Healing Place on Medical Center Drive.
New Hanover County is constructing the peer-led residential drug and alcohol recovery facility, which is anticipated to be completed in spring 2022. The Healing Place will offer 100 beds to men and 100 beds to women.
According to information on the New Hanover County website, construction of the facility is being funded as a capital project by the county. The total budget is nearly $25.5 million, and the average annual debt service is estimated at about $1.5 million.
Once construction is complete, New Hanover County will own the buildings and be responsible for long-term maintenance. The Healing Place of Louisville, Kentucky, will establish a new 501(c)3 that will then fully manage and operate the facility, including all operating costs.
The new treatment facility will provide underserved adults who live with alcohol and other drug addictions with a no-cost program to help restore them to a healthy life, according to county documents.
“The Healing Place will provide an overnight emergency shelter, non-medical detoxification, and a long-term, 12-step based residential peer-run recovery program,” a statement from the county said.
Treatment at the facility will cost less than $35 per day, per resident to operate – at no charge to the individual – which is much lower than the cost of an emergency room visit or incarceration, county officials said.
“The Healing Place continues to progress well, with final completion still expected in May of 2022,” New Hanover County chief communications officer Jessica Loeper said. “All five buildings have been started and are at various stages of construction.”