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Mission Health expands footprint in Haywood

fr missionMission Health opened a new $7 million medical complex in Haywood County this week offering an array of health care services in a jaw-dropping facility.

Convenience for patients was touted by speakers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday. Seeing a doctor, getting an X-ray, having labs done, and filling a prescription can all be done under one roof at the new Mission medical complex.

“We know consumers want a one-stop shop convenient and close to home,” said Mission CEO Dr. Ron Paulus. 

A crowd of more than 300 turned out to tour the building during the ribbon-cutting and open house, from the business community and local elected officials to the general public and medical professionals — including doctors affiliated with Haywood Regional Medical Center curious about the new competition.

“It is a reflection of how many people are interested in having Mission services right here in their backyard,” Jonathan Bailey, the vice president of operations for Mission Health, said of the larger-than-expected crowd. “It is great for us to be able to meet the needs of Haywood County.”

Technically, Mission isn’t adding any new specialties, services or health care lines that weren’t already available in Haywood County through existing doctors and practices or at Haywood Regional Medical Center.

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Many of the specialists seeing patients at the new Mission facility won’t be based in Haywood full-time, but instead will travel from Asheville to hold office hours in Haywood on certain days.

But having access to a suite of Mission-brand medical services under one roof resonated with many. 

“You can do everything here. It is a one-stop place,” said Catherine Ledford, 62, a patient of Dr. David Mulholland with Mission Haywood Family Medicine.

The new Mission Health complex went from ground breaking to grand opening in less than nine months. Construction costs for the 30,000-square-foot building were around $7 million and the 23-acre site, purchased last August, was another $1.375 million. Equipment and furnishings carried an additional price tag, but one that Mission officials declined to share.

The new Mission campus is a “testament to our investment in the health and economy of Haywood County,” Mulholland said.

The new Mission complex will add capacity to meet the ever-increasing demand for health care as baby boomers age, with services including X-rays and imaging, labs, wound care, a pharmacy, physical therapy, orthopedics, spine specialists, sports medicine and more.

The lynchpin of Mission’s new medical complex is its primary care team. Haywood has had a chronic shortage of family doctors in recent years.

“Patients are struggling to get in and can’t get the appointments they need when they need them,” Bailey said. “We are significantly increasing that capacity.”

Mission is doubling the primary care doctors in its Haywood County practice from two to four. The additional doctors joining Mission Haywood Family Medicine will also add prenatal care and pediatrics to the practice’s repertoire. 

“When someone trusts you with their health, that’s a solemn responsibility,” said Mulholland, the original provider who started Haywood Family Medicine in 2002. “Understanding people at their most desperate hour, that’s why we are here.”

A lot of research and planning went into the building’s floor design, to reduce trekking back and forth as patients circulate to different areas. The orthopedist room is right beside the X-ray room, for example.

“We thought about that kind of adjacency when we designed the building,” said Oscar Weinmeister, vice president of ambulatory development for Mission.


Local vs. next door

The new Mission complex was lauded by Haywood Chamber of Commerce President CeCe Hipps as beneficial to the local economy.

“Thank you for investing in our community and providing our citizens with additional medical care that is tailored for our community. Mission is a engine of economic activity and job creation,” Hipps said at the ribbon cutting.

Eventually, there could be 50 to 60 employees at the Mission medical complex at full build out, Weinmeister estimated.

For now, there are about 30 employees, with about half being new. The count doesn’t include rotating specialists with their own support staffs who will commute from Asheville on select days to hold office hours here.

Since the new Mission complex won’t be doing surgery, patients who see Mission’s rotating specialists would travel to Asheville for procedures — from spine surgery to knee replacement.

If Mission siphons local patients away from Haywood Regional Medical Center, it could cost existing healthcare jobs in the community, making the addition of jobs by Mission an overall wash in the county’s workforce. 

However, Bailey said Mission is not focused on taking business from Haywood Regional, and instead wants to serve patients who are already choosing Mission but currently have to drive.

“We are finding a lot of patients still make the drive out of Haywood to Asheville to see these specialists,” Bailey said. “We are providing care the community was already going after and seeking, but providing it right here.”

That’s the case for Rosanne Asbell, 75, who sees an orthopedist at Asheville Orthopedic Associates’ satellite office in Haywood County for her bad knees.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Asbell. “It will give competition to Haywood Regional, which is very good.”

Mission hopes to overcome the perception that it’s an outsider. The new medical complex aims to drive home the message that Mission offers local health care, despite its flagship hospital being in Asheville.

“Mission has long been a part of Haywood County,” said Bailey. 

Hospitals aren’t going to be the center of the health care universe in the future anyway, Paulus said. Clinic-style health care services — like the one-stop shop Mission opened — and outpatient surgery centers — which Mission may add to its Haywood campus one day — are more convenient, more efficient and more popular with patients.

Medicine under one roof, with a single trajectory of care, is a mantra Paulus preaches often.

“We are moving away from a very hospital-centric model to a very at-your-side model of care,” Paulus said.

Mission officials emphasized that the new complex is a harbinger of continued expansion and investment in Haywood County, with plenty of space to grow at its new Haywood campus.

Mission snagged a key piece of property on Hospital Drive that is 23 acres, in the heart of medical row and a stone’s throw from Haywood Regional Medical Center. Mission’s prominent hilltop site showcases the stately building and the Mission Health sign to all passersby on the heavily traveled highway corridor below.

“We have built a facility that is commiserate with the quality of care patients in Haywood County deserve,” Bailey said.

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