The State of North Carolina has agreed to a request from Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist to build a new hospital in Greensboro.

However, soon after that decision was made, Cone Health announced that it would appeal.

The two hospital systems have been in a battle over the proposed project, with Atrium arguing that a new hospital in Guilford County would mean improved health care for county residents while Cone has argued that competition for medical professionals and other considerations would drive up cost for patients.

North Carolina is a “Certificate of Need” state, which means that any organization wishing to build a new hospital must get approval from the state by demonstrating that a new hospital in a community is needed and would improve health care in that area.

In early 2023, Atrium applied for the certificate for this project.  The state has now approved that request.

On Wednesday, Aug. 9,  Cone Health sent out a press release announcing its intention to appeal the state’s decision.

The proposed hospital, which would be in northwest Greensboro on Horse Pen Creek Road, is estimated to cost just under $250 million.  The proposal calls for the facility to contain 36 beds and two operating rooms.

The appeal comes as no surprise to anyone. The two health care systems have been fighting it out all year and, two months ago, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan told the Rhino Times that whichever side lost in the Certificate of Need battle would no doubt appeal.

Cone wasted no time in doing so.

“Cone Health will appeal a state decision approving Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s plan to build a hospital in one of the wealthiest communities in Greensboro,” the August 9 press release reads. “The proposed hospital will bring higher health care costs, add no medical services not already available close by and would not serve people living in areas needing more health care options.”

Cone Health CEO Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, in a prepared statement included in the release, reiterated arguments that Cone has been making for months – to both state health officials and to the public.

“This is a poor decision for everyone needing health care in this area,” she stated. “This community doesn’t need a very expensive facility duplicating most of the same services offered by a Cone Health facility just two miles away. Cone Health is already the lower-cost provider. Our quality is already top tier.  People in our community already have options when it comes to health care. This decision runs counter to how CON [Certificate of Need] is supposed to work.”

Many believe that, regardless of what Cone officials are saying, the competition in the medical services market would bring down prices and lead to better health care in Guilford County.  Cone has had a monopoly on hospital care in the county for decades.

However, Cone Health maintains that the proposed new hospital “puts profits over patients.”

The press release states that Guilford County doesn’t need additional hospital beds or operating rooms, so there’s no need for the hospital.

“Atrium Health plans to move those assets from its High Point Medical Center,” it reads.  “People living in the area around the proposed Atrium hospital in Greensboro have 1.6 times the average median income than those around High Point Medical Center. And the $246 million the Greensboro hospital will cost, is money that won’t be invested in expanding care to those High Point communities.”

The release adds, “Cone Health also maintains that the proposed hospital will be a way station to Winston-Salem for anyone needing more than routine hospital care. People being transferred to Atrium-Wake Forest Baptist Health would face higher academic medical center costs.”

The battle, which has already been going on for nearly half a year, will no doubt continue for at least months to come.