County leaders OK plan that could bring hospital back to Franklin County

LOUISBURG, N.C. (WNCN) —   A major step forward took place on Monday night in the push to bring hospital services back to Franklin County.

The county’s only hospital closed last year, which left the closest emergency room 21 miles further away.

The lack of a hospital in Franklin County is increasing the time of emergency calls from 45 minutes to two to three hours.

A year ago, Novant Health announced it was closing Franklin Medical Center. It gave its 140 employees there and the community just 10 days notice.

But, Monday night county commissioners voted to start negotiations with Duke Lifepoint to take over the old Franklin Medical Center.

Sitting with his wife, Jane, Monty Riggs is thankful to be sitting here at all.

“This was an issue I was told people do not survive. Period,” Riggs said.

Twice, Riggs has had blood clots in his legs — needing urgent medical care.

“The first one, we did not catch that one until it was literally almost too late,” he said.

He got the help he needed at Franklin Medical Center.

But, the hospital has been sitting empty for a year since Novant Health closed it, saying too few people were using it.

Novant said they were only averaging 18 patients per day and had 65 unused beds

Riggs lives across the street from Franklin Medical Center. So, every day when he walks outside his door, there’s a reminder that what used to be here isn’t anymore.

“It has been very scary knowing this past year there is nothing there if I need assistance,” he said.

Monday night, Franklin County Commissioners took a step toward changing that.

They chose to start a 90-day negotiation period with Duke Lifepoint to lease the space.

Duke Lifepoint’s plan includes getting the emergency room back open four to six months after the agreement is reached.

In addition, they plan to start a geriatric unit and offer surgical services in Youngsville.

“It was paramount that they have 24/7 services here in the community, so that was something we built our proposal around,” said Franklin County Commissioner Sidney Dunston.

“Duke Lifepoint will be able to provide the best medical options at this particular time for the citizens of Franklin County,” said Bert Beard, the CEO of Maria Parham Medical Center.

Wake Med and a group of physicians in Franklin County also submitted proposals that could be reconsidered if the negotiations with Duke Lifepoint don’t pan out.

Wake Med’s proposal did not include reopening the emergency room.

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