CLAYTON -- At a public hearing last week, folks spoke up in favor of Johnston Health transferring 23 in-patient beds to the Johnston Medical Center in Clayton.
Johnston Health has submitted an application to the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation to allow the bed transfer. The division will decide whether or not to grant what is called a certificate of need by the end of November.
Michael McKillip, the project analyst for the Johnston Health proposal, led the public hearing at Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library last Monday as part of the certificate of need application process. Representatives from Johnston Health were given the opportunity to share the details of their proposal, and members of the public voiced their support for the project.
The extra beds would be part of a $20 million expansion set to be completed by October, 2014. Johnston Health already received approval in 2008 to transfer 27 beds to the Clayton facility, which is currently just an out-patient hospital.
“Once we open it is going to reach capacity fairly quickly,” Johnston Health CEO Chuck Elliott said at the hearing. “We feel there’s a growing demand here in Clayton.”
Dr. Craig Carter, a thoracic cardiovascular surgeon and chief of staff at Johnston Health, shared his thoughts on the application. Carter, who has his medical practice in Clayton, said the majority of his patients have to be transferred to Smithfield for in-patient care despite Clayton’s two operating rooms.
As part of the $20 million expansion, the Clayton hospital would see an additional operating room and an expansion of the emergency department. When the third operating room is added, Carter says, the 27 in-patient beds won’t be enough.
Since opening in 2009, 2,000 patients treated at the Clayton hospital have needed in-patient care, and half of them have been sent to Smithfield, Carter said. In its first year a lone, the hospital saw 23,000 visits to its emergency room.
“Since the facility went up, the need for this facility has literally outstripped its expectations,” Carter said. “We’re serving a broader geographic area than we expected.”
Bobby Parker, the treasurer of the board for Johnston Health, is a long-time Clayton resident and shared his thoughts on why the bed transfer makes sense for the Clayton hospital. Parker cited Clayton as a sought-after destination because of its quality schools, lower home prices and industrial corridor. On top of that, he said, it needs a full-service hospital.
“The Clayton area has grown faster than previously anticipated,” he told McKillip.
A handful of folks, largely town elected officials, voiced their support for the project while no one spoke in opposition.
Town Councilman Art Holder emphasized how the additional in-patient beds would be cost-saving for Clayton families that currently have to travel to Raleigh or Smithfield to visit loved ones in the hospital, as well as for emergency services that have to drive further for serious cases.
Town Councilman Jason Thompson, a former Clayton Area EMS chief, also spoke in support of the bed transfer.
“I can tell you firsthand from my experience with EMS that we need all 50 beds,” Thompson said. “Residents want a hospital they can got o for full service. We’re the fastest growing and now the largest community in Johnston County, and I think those beds will be well served.”
For resident Phil Nangle, his personal experience at Johnston Medical Center was enough of a reason for him to attend the hearing and voice his support for the expansion.
“This community really needs this. I’ve personally used this facility and I was extremely impressed with the care,” Nangle said.
If the application is approved, Clayton would get 50 in-patient beds in a new three-story wing. Smithfield, which currently has 179 acute care beds, would be left with 129 beds.