While Robeson County’s economic engine seems stuck in idle, the health care industry, bolstered by an aging and sedentary population, keeps chugging along.
Last week, more evidence of the good health of the local health care industry was evident when Southeastern Regional Medical Center announced it would seek the state’s permission to build a $30 million surgical unit that would sit alongside Interstate 95.
SRMC, with about 2,200 employees, is already the largest private employer in Robeson County, and is second overall only to the Public Schools of Robeson County. Included among those employees are 130 physicians, up from about 90 just a decade ago. These are folks who not only provide medical care, but increase the county’s collective IQ and contribute to an array of civic causes.
The primary purpose of the surgical unit is to enhance care for people undergoing surgery on an outpatient basis, but it would also better position Southeastern Regional Medical Center in an increasingly competitive health care environment by cutting costs for patients and for the hospital.
The surgical unit would also provide new jobs, temporary ones during construction, and permanents ones with additional support staff, estimated at a modest 14. With The University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Robeson Community College fortifying their health care curriculums, there’s every reason to believe that those jobs could be filled locally.
The surgical unit would add more bricks to Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s growing reputation as a regional powerhouse in the health care industry. The gems are the Heart Center, which was built only after a determined pursuit of state approval, the Gibson Cancer Center and the seven-story bed tower. The hospital has evolved into a provider of cradle-to-grave care, with services that include fitness, primary, specialty, acute care, long-term care, home health and hospice.
The strikes against Robeson County’s economic-development efforts are talked about too much. Not enough attention is given to our positives, which include plenty of available land, a strong workforce, climate, the Lumber River, good roads, a regional airport, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Robeson Community College and proximity to the beaches.
But none is more critical than Southeastern Regional Medical Center, whose growth not only means new jobs, but makes this more attractive for people considering calling Robeson County their new home.