The Medical Facilities Planning Section of the Health and Human Services Department unanimously voted last Friday to approve the recommendation of Macon County’s petition for a Certificate of Need to be issued to allow a dialysis center to be built in the county.
“Friday was a major step for Macon County, and without the approval of the Medical Facilities Planning Section, nothing else could happen,” noted Commissioner Ronnie Beale, “so it was a good day for the citizens of Macon County and their families.”
The Department of Health and Human Services regulates the development of all new healthcare facilities within the state, including dialysis centers, for which it analyzes and determines need on a county-by-county basis, as published in the State Medical Facilities Plan.
Beale explained that the Medical Facilities Planning Section approved five stations for Macon County, which is unheard of because department standards suggest that there must be 10 stations in each dialysis center. “They approved us for five initial stations which is great because it shows they recognize the need for them and that unfortunately that need is going to continue to grow,” said Beale.
Commissioner Beale diligently fought to show the state that not only does Macon County meet the criteria needed for a center, but also emphasized the urgent need for immediate action.
After Franklin resident John Davis convinced the Macon County Board of Commissioners that the county needs its own dialysis center, the board drafted a resolution with the intent of adjusting the need determination given in the Proposed North Carolina State Medical Facilities plan for 2012.
The June 14 decision to began a petition for a dialysis center came after Davis’ compelling presentation to the board. Davis explained that three times a week – on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays – he drives his wife, Sue, to a dialysis center in Sylva where she receives treatment for End Stage Renal Disease. Davis’ efforts assured the board that the time, cost and inconvenience associated the 50- mile-plus round-trip take their toll not only on Davis but also for other Macon County residents who also have to make the trip.
Earlier this summer, Beale made a presentation before members of the committee at a public hearing in Asheville. In his testimony, he informed the committee that the county has 34 known residents who must travel to Jackson County to receive dialysis at this time. Beale also informed the board that there are residents in southern areas of the county who are forced to travel south across the Georgia state line for treatment at a Clayton facility.
Commissioner Beale also explained that the county has as many as 9,000 second homes, which nearly doubles the population with seasonal residents, many of whom are of retirement age and more prone to kidney conditions which require dialysis.
Beale’s relentless efforts on behalf of the citizens of Macon County have proved to be worth the trouble. The next step in the process is for the State Health Coordinating Council to approve the plan for a dialysis center before the State Health Plan can be amended and the final Certificate of Need be issued giving Macon County the go-ahead to begin looking into private providers of the service. Although nothing official has been agreed on, Beale noted that a dialysis provider for other counties in the Western region of the state has showed interest in coming to Macon County.
The State Health Coordinating Council will meet on Wednesday, Sept. 28, to vote on issuing the Certificate of Need. Commissioner Beale plans to travel to Raleigh for a second time to attend the meeting and bring the results back to Macon County.