The Certificate of Need Section of the N.C. Division of Facility Services announced its decision this morning to disapprove an application requesting permission to build and operate an open-heart surgery center in Lumberton. Southeastern Regional Medical Center and Duke University Health System had proposed an open-heart surgery program that would bring coronary artery bypass surgery and interventional catheterization services to Robeson County.
Luckey Welsh, president and chief operating officer of the hospital, said that the SRMC/Duke Certificate of Need application submitted conformed to virtually all review criteria used by the state. However, Certificate of Need officials referred to a survey conducted by another agency of the state this past summer, which found staffing issues at the medical center. The hospital has submitted a plan to address these issues; this plan has been accepted by the state. SRMC officials await another survey by the state to certify compliance of the plan.
Welsh said that the next step will be for the medical center to file an appeal of the decision and to gain approval following a satisfactory survey by the state, which will demonstrate that the staffing issues have been corrected.
"We are confident that after this survey process is complete, the state will have no further concerns about these staffing issues," Welsh said. He added that the appeal process would not delay the planned opening of the open-heart surgery services in 2005.
The process to gain approval for the open-heart program has been ongoing for since the idea was first proposed to the medical center's board of trustees in August 1997. In 1999, the state denied a Certificate of Need application filed in 1998 by Duke and SRMC.
In September 2001, the State Health Coordinating Council incorporated a petition submitted by Duke and SRMC for the proposed heart center into the 2002 State Medical Facilities Plan. The most recent Certificate of Need application for the center was filed on March 15, 2002.
On June 18, about 1,000 people attended a public hearing on the application held at Robeson Community College. SRMC physicians, employees, trustees, and community supporters of open-heart services spoke at that hearing.