Novant Health Inc. said Tuesday it is requesting state regulatory permission for a $50 million infrastructure expansion at Kernersville Medical Center.
The focal point of the proposed 60,000-square-foot expansion is adding a fourth floor to the 10-year-old hospital with a new maternity and delivery center as the primary usage.
There would be 13 medical beds transferred from Forsyth facilities to the Kernersville hospital for a total of 63.
The expansion would bring the square footage of the Kernersville hospital to 281,786 square feet.
Novant also would transfer an underutilized catheterization lab from Forsyth, the first at the Kernersville hospital. The lab will be placed in open space on the second floor.
The goal is having the catheterization lab and the fourth floor/maternity services opening by 2024.
Currently, Novant provides all birthing services at Forsyth Medical Center.
The Kernersville birthing center would be patterned after the one at Thomasville Medical Center with a focus on low-risk deliveries.
"We had heard from the community from the start (of the hospital) about wanting maternity services as a local option," said Kirsten Royster, the hospital's president.
Royster said Novant expects that population growth should allow Forsyth Medical Center to maintain current birthing levels and revenue streams.
It would be the first expansion in Kernersville since the 50-bed community hospital opened in March 2011 at a cost approaching $100 million.
Novant added a $9.8 million ambulatory surgical center to the campus in April 2018.
Royster said the expansion is "part of its long-range planning to provide more care closer to home and meet demand of community and population growth that we're seeing in this part of Triad."
Royster said the most significant population growth in the Kernersville market has been individuals ages 65 and older, which tend to be the primary users of catheterization and overall heart and vascular services.
"This fits our strategy of expanding services in Kernersville along with adding physicians and robotic-assisted surgical services," Royster said.
Royster said Novant projects gaining market share in the competitive Triad marketplace with the expansion.
Although the primary focus is serving Kernersville residents within a 10-mile radius, it draws patients around Piedmont Triad International Airport, such as Jamestown, Oak Ridge, Summerfield and Walkertown, and outlying counties such as Rockingham and Stokes.
Utilization of the Kernersville hospital has served as a measuring stick for the use of suburban cookie-cutter community hospitals in the state.
Novant said in November with its fiscal third-quarter 2020 report that Kernersville had an average daily inpatient count of 33. Comparing Novant hospitals of similar size, the average daily inpatient count was 12 in Clemmons, 61 in Thomasville, 46 in Brunswick, 82 in Huntersville, 120 in Matthews and 24 in Mint Hill.
There were 8,137 emergency department visits in Kernersville, compared with 4,418 in Clemmons, 7,058 in Thomasville, 7,129 in Brunswick, 9,038 in Huntersville, 9,612 in Matthews and 5,560 in Mint Hill.
Novant filed two certificate-of-need applications (CON) to the N.C. Division of Health Services Regulation by Monday's deadline for the current submission cycle.
There will be a public comment period during March about the two CONs. If there is no opposition, Novant could get an answer from state regulators as early as August.
A CON is required before a health care system or provider can build a facility, buy equipment or offer a surgical procedure, among other things. There are 28 health-care scenarios affected by the law, which took effect in 1978.
The primary goal is to prevent unnecessary duplication of services within a community or region as a means of controlling costs.
The state typically approves internal shifting of equipment and services within a healthcare system.
Cone Health and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center could not be immediately reached for comment on the Kernersville Medical Center expansion plans.
"This is not asking the state for new assets ... but wanting to more effectively use assets that the state has already granted to Novant Health in this county," Royster said.
For example, Novant has licenses for eight catheterization labs in Forsyth, seven of which are in used at Forsyth Medical Center.
"Even with population growth, we do not currently expect the need for more than seven catheterization labs" at Forsyth, Royster said.