LUMBERTON — There are a lot of reasons to choose Southeastern Health, Robeson County’s largest local medical institution.
With clinics throughout the county and surrounding area, high-quality care is available close to home, no matter what part of the county a patient lives in. One reason people might not think of, however, is that Southeastern Health is also a strong source of support for the local economy.
As one of the largest private employers in Robeson County, choosing Southeastern Health for medical care helps support the community by keeping health care dollars at home, where it benefits other local businesses, neighbors and families.
“The value of having a health system in the community is both direct and indirect,” said Joann Anderson, Southeastern Health president and CEO. “Southeastern has 65 years of contributing directly to the economy of Robeson County at a significant level. The indirect impact is the number of lives we effect through care. Our success is dependent on county support. For us to continue to contribute, the residents in our county need to partner with us by using the local services. For every person who goes out of the community for care, there is a negative economic impact to the community.”
The goods and services hospitals purchase from other businesses, from food to construction, create additional economic value for their communities, according to the American Hospital Association. The AHA estimates that, on average, each hospital job supports about two additional jobs in the community.
Robeson County Economic Developer Channing Jones said that ripple, or roll-over effect, is even higher in rural communities.
“Typically, for every dollar spent locally in a rural community, it will turn over seven times,” Jones said. “The main expense, salary and wages, is where the money turns around. The employees pay bills, go out to eat, and buy things from other local businesses.”
Southeastern Health employs 2,595 people in full-time and part-time positions, with a full-time equivalent of 2,279. Of those, 1,800 live in Robeson County, with 231 in Cumberland County, 220 in Bladen County and 119 in Columbus County.
According to Southeastern Health’s 2017 Annual Report, the nonprofit listed $292.7 million in expenses, with $158.8 million, or 54.3 percent, going to employees.
Of the remaining expenses, Southeastern Health attempts to use local vendors whenever possible to redistribute dollars back to the community, said Vivien Lunsford, director of Supply Chain Management.
“For instance, we purchase vehicles from local dealerships, and our vehicle repairs and maintenance services are done at local shops,” Lunsford said. “We use a lot of local vendors, whether it’s cleaning supplies or office supplies. We like to use local vendors because the owners and their employees are also our customers, too.”
Jones also praised Southeastern Health’s commitment to the community in strategically placing primary care or urgent clinics, whether as new providers or taking over other clinics that might otherwise have closed, throughout Robeson County. Although the majority of Southeastern Health’s resources are in Lumberton, it operates clinics in Fairmont, Maxton, Pembroke, Red Springs, Rowland and St. Pauls, as well as clinics in neighboring counties in Clarkton, Gray’s Creek and White Lake. One of the first expansions outside of Lumberton was when Southeastern Health took over Fairmont Medical Clinic in 1992. More satellite clinics followed, with St. Pauls in 1995, and Rowland and Red Springs in 1997. The pace of expansion grew, and since 2007 Southeastern Health has opened or acquired multiple clinics and specialty offices almost every year.
“With a large geographic area like Robeson County, transportation can be a great barrier,” Jones said. “These are very proactive things the hospital has done that shows its commitment to a higher level of care. In rural communities, health is tied to education and economic development.”
A 2014 Healthcare Cost Report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that the direct impacts on employment and labor income from an average primary care clinic with just one physician, one nurse and three clinic staff is $449,498.
Roxana Ross is content writer/photographer for Southeastern Health in the Corporate Communications department.