Lease negotiations for the highly anticipated and valiantly fought for dialysis center have concluded and renovations to an already existing building are expected to begin the first week of February.
At the request of community members, which was supported by commissioners, representatives with DaVita Dialysis Center, the company awarded the contract to open a center in Macon County, diligently searched for an already existing and vacant building in Macon County to house the new center. The search hit a small snag when options and locations for the center were limited to buildings not able to accommodate the center's need.
One building, located near Westgate Plaza, was found to be large enough to sustain DaVita's needs, but it was occupied by the CareNet thrift store. A new search began to find a building to relocate the CareNet thrift store that would better suit their needs, while opening up a building for DaVita. A vacant building located along Palmer Street across from Premiere Marketing was identified and all parties involved agreed on terms to relocate.
“It is a great location and is large enough to be expanded in the future,” said County Commission Chair Kevin Corbin of the dialysis center building.
According to County Commissioner Ronnie Beale, who has led the charge of securing the dialysis center in Macon County, CareNet is expected to be out of their current location by Jan. 27, which will allow DaVita to begin renovations in February.
According to Beale, the need for a dialysis center unfortunately continues to grow, as do the number of stage four dialysis patients. Macon County went up against the state to fight to procure a Certificate of Need to bring a dialysis center to the county. The new facility will be the first of its kind in the state. Because the county has been able to demonstrate such a need, if the center can not sufficiently accommodate all patients, DaVita can expand the operations without having to return to the state for permission, avoiding a lengthy and time consuming process.
The new facility can expect to open as early as this fall. “The construction phase of the project will take approximately six months,” said Bill Hyland, director of Healthcare Planning for DaVita Inc. “Once the construction phase is completed, we will install the furniture and equipment. When all of the equipment is in place and has been tested, we will be ready for certification of the facility. This will require an on-site visit by the North Carolina state agency responsible for the certification of dialysis facilities. Once the facility is certified, the facility will open.”
The process of obtaining state approval for a dialysis center has been a very long journey, but a journey Corbin says will pay off. “It was very slow in getting this accomplished,” said Corbin. “We (commissioners) have worked very hard to bring this to our citizens. What a joy it will be to have this facility here in Macon County. Our citizens who are on dialysis deserve this.”
As Beale has pointed out time and time again, and as he has explained to the state, citizens of Macon County who are in need of receiving dialysis are forced to travel to Jackson County or down into Georgia to obtain the desperately needed treatment.
Some patients are forced to make daily trips over Cowee Mountain to be at the DaVita Center there as early as 5 a.m., just to be able to receive services that their lives literally depend on. Because of the age and condition of the patients, several citizens have to rely on Macon County Transit to be transported to neighboring facilities.
In winter months, some patients have been forced to skip treatments because of unsafe road conditions due to weather. The new facility will mean that the population of Macon County residents — a number which triples in summer months due to second-home owners — needing dialysis treatment and their families, will no longer be forced to travel to obtain services, but instead will be able to utilize a facility in their home county.