It was predictable that Cone Health and other forces would not accept the entry of a new competitor (Atrium Wake Forest Baptist) into Greensboro without a fight.
The News and Record discusses Cone’s response in an article posted today.
Here is a summary of their main points and my response:
- “Overlapping services and facilities concentrated in certain pockets of our communities only amplify already pronounced health care disparities“. The certificate of need process is not about health care disparities, or about the location of services in certain parts of town. Instead, it is primarily about whether hospital beds are needed in a given market. But it is also about whether competition exists because monopolies are illegal under state law. Cone has a monopoly currently in Greensboro and is trying to preserve that.
- State Senator Gladys Robinson and Cone both say that the proposal takes beds away from High Point where they are needed, and moves them to a wealthier area. Atrium Wake Forest Baptist, however, has made the point that the hospital in High Point has many unused beds and does not need its current capacity. Again, concerns over moving the beds to a wealthy area is not a legitimate part of the Certificate of Need process. Instead, the main considerations as noted above are the need for beds and promoting competition in accordance with state law. Cone Health, because it drove away staff with its response to the pandemic, has had to close beds that ordinarily might be available to the public. This made it difficult for people to access hospital services when they were needed and justified– and this affected rich and poor alike. Few people are aware that, when Cone took over Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville, it eliminated obstetric and pediatric services at that hospital, and dictated that these cases be diverted to Greensboro. Cone, therefore, also has moved hospital services from one place to another.
- Mayor Nancy Vaughan pointed out that Cone had opened a new integrated health care facility less than two miles from Atrium’s proposed Horse Pen Creek location. (This is the emergency room complex on Battleground Avenue at the Urban Loop.) She said we need health care in underserved areas, and that more providers are welcome in areas where they can have an impact. The socialists have adopted the talking point that Atrium’s proposal is in the wrong part of town, but that issue is addressed above. Greensboro has had no hospital competition for nearly 30 years; and new entrants into this market will necessarily need to choose a location based on their ability to succeed at that location. If Vaughan tries to dictate that services be directed to locations where the applicant cannot succeed, then competition will not develop. She fails to note that Cone opened its new ER in a more affluent part of town, and refrained from doing so in the underserved areas she says she wants to help. If rezoning is required for Atrium’s proposal, this raises a red flag they will have to deal with our corrupt local machine politics.
- Mary Jo Cagle– Cone’s CEO who benefits from its monopoly status– claimed that the Atrium proposal would result in more expensive academic medical center prices being charged. She advocated for Atrium investing more in High Point. The theory behind competition is that it will increase quality and keep prices lower. If Cone believes Atrium will be costing patients and payers more money, then it can compete based on price. Atrium has clearly stated High Point needs less beds– not more– and has advanced a proposal that will increase competition. Cagle fails to point out that Cone years ago placed a freestanding ER in High Point in competition with the High Point hospital.