Editor’s Note: Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge is Burke County’s largest private employer. As a leading corporate citizen, it is

an active member and supporter of the Burke Chamber, does business in our county and is involved with numerous community-based organizations. The system serves as the healthcare safety net for thousands of uninsured and under-insured citizens in Burke County, providing $63 million in care last year with partial or no payment. At the same time, our community healthcare system faces the financial challenges of the Affordable Care Act, federal mandates to purchase expensive information technology, reduced payments for services from the government, and a seismic shift from traditional inpatient care to outpatient care. Last week, the system’s Board of Directors announced a proactive plan designed to respond to these trends and challenges by concentrating outpatient care at the Valdese hospital and inpatient care at the Morganton facility. In the interest of transparency and to provide Chamber members with information that led to the Board’s decision, Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge shared the following information with your Chamber.
Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge’s Board of Directors voted [last] week to transition Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge – Valdese to an outpatient health center and transfer inpatient care to its Morganton campus. This decision was based on the current patient population’s needs and an overall commitment to ensure long-term access to high-quality healthcare for the community, according to information from the system.
“With this decision, the Board, leadership and teammates at Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge are looking to the future,” said J. Michael Bridges, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “We envision Valdese as a healthcare center of the future – the first of its kind in our region. This is an investment in the care of the communities we serve.”
Valdese’s transformation will take place over a 2-1/2  year period. The transition will begin with increasing outpatient surgeries performed at Valdese and moving all inpatients from Valdese to Morganton. These two steps will be complete by the end of this year.
Emergency services, cancer care and other outpatient services will remain at Valdese. In fact, plans include renovating and expanding the Emergency Department and upgrading the Cancer Center. The planning and preparation process will begin this summer and construction should begin by first quarter 2015.
“There is a tradition of high quality care and service at Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge – Valdese. Transforming Valdese into an outpatient health center will allow us to provide the right kind of care for our patients at the right place, all while being more efficient and keeping Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge viable in the ever-changing healthcare environment,” said Kathy Bailey, President and CEO.
Today, more patients than ever are receiving care in settings other than an inpatient bed. New technology, more advanced treatment methods and healthcare reform have led to more care being provided outside the walls of a hospital. In 2013, almost 95 percent of patients cared for at Valdese were outpatients, so focusing on that model of care delivery will better match actual utilization of services.

“Our overall focus continues to be on creating a patient and family-centered environment within Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge,” said Bailey. “We believe the transformation at Valdese will help us achieve that goal for this community.”

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