An often-overlooked benefit when considering a move to Western North Carolina is the availability of first-class medical care. In fact, healthcare is not only a thriving industry in the area, but in most counties, healthcare systems and hospitals are top employers in the region.
     To the north, three unique hospitals make up the innovative Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS). Blowing Rock Hospital is a private, non-profit critical access hospital that was established in 1952. The hospital provides acute, intermediate and skilled care, emergency services, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, speech therapy and ultrasound services, as well as long-term/extended care.
     Charles A. Cannon, Jr., Memorial Hospital in Linville, built in 1999, is a 25-bed critical access hospital that provides a comprehensive range of healthcare services including emergency and diagnostic services.
     Watauga Medical Center in Boone is a fully accredited 117-bed regional referral medical complex, offering both primary and secondary acute and specialty care. In addition to the main hospital, the campus of the medical center includes the Cardiology Center of ARHS, a Sleep Center, and the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center.
     Also north of Asheville and providing service to Avery, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey Counties, the Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine believes that patient and family-centered care is the best approach to meeting patients’ healthcare needs. Its new association with the Mission Hospital System is just one more way the hospital better serves the local communities. Founded in 1955, this 46-bed facility features a new Women’s Imaging Center, diagnostic lab and expanded patient areas with larger rooms.
     MedWest Health System currently serves more than 160,000 people in the western counties of the state providing quality healthcare in Haywood, Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham Counties. MedWest has a medical staff of more than 230 physicians and 2,100 employees working on three main campuses.
     MedWest-Haywood, a not-for-profit public hospital located in Clyde, was created in 1927 as the first county hospital in the state and is currently licensed for 189 beds.
MedWest-Harris is an 86 bed, not-for-profit acute care facility located in Sylva.
     MedWest-Swain is a fully accredited Critical Access Hospital in Bryson City serving the patients of Swain and Graham Counties. MedWest Health System also includes an outpatient facility located in Franklin, providing laboratory, radiology, rehabilitation and sleep services.
     Mission Health System is Western North Carolina’s hub and the center for advanced medical care. Mission was formed when St. Joseph’s Hospital and Memorial Mission Medical Center started an organizational partnership in 1996. A full merger followed this partnership on Oct. 27, 1998, when St. Joseph’s Hospital was purchased from the Sisters of Mercy by Memorial Mission Medical Center.
     The system is licensed for more than 800 beds and bassinets on its two adjoining campuses in Asheville. The medical staff includes more than 540 employees. There are 6,500 employees including 1,800 RNs and nearly 700 volunteers.
     Mission is the busiest surgical hospital in North Carolina. Its centers of excellence include heart, stroke care and neurosciences, pediatrics, and the region’s dedicated Level II Trauma Center on a sprawling 90-acre hilltop campus. Mission Health System also includes the earlier mentioned Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Mitchell County and McDowell Hospital in Marion.
     Located in Hendersonville, Pardee Hospital is a not-for-profit community hospital founded in 1953. Managed by the UNC Health Care System, it is the first and only hospital in North Carolina to be accredited with the International Organization for Standardization for quality healthcare standards.
     The main hospital is licensed for 222 acute care beds. Pardee is the second largest employer in Henderson County with 1,225 employees. Approximately 248 physicians representing 40 medical specialties and 86 allied health areas account for Pardee’s excellence in healthcare. Pardee provides health care to all who seek it without regard for their ability to pay for services.
     One of the most unique hospital systems in the area is also to the south of Asheville in Fletcher. Park Ridge Health is the only faith-based hospital in Western North Carolina and from employing the very first registered nurses in North Carolina in 1916, to offering the first 64-slice CT Scanner in the state, the facility has participated in a number of firsts that reflect the unwavering dedication of more than 1,100 care givers and 223 physicians. The hospital is in association with the Adventist Health System as one of 44 hospitals that comprise the second-largest, not-for-profit, Protestant healthcare system in the nation.
     From humble beginnings as a small boarding house to a pristine setting on the mountainside in Columbus, St. Luke’s Hospital has been in service for more than 80 years. A medical staff of three, four nurses, one housekeeper, a cook, a maid and a houseman have been replaced by a medical staff of 75, a hospital staff of 300 plus and vast advances in technology.
     Like many non-profit hospitals, St. Luke’s Hospital has benefitted from the generous support of its community with various foundations and endowments. In order to partner with a stronger hospital system for management expertise, experience with developing strong community-based clinical services, and participation in revenue and purchasing contracts, the hospital’s board selected Carolinas HealthCare System of Charlotte in 2008. With the assistance of CH, St. Luke’s experienced a renewed ability to meet the healthcare needs of the community as well as a remarkable financial turnaround by the end of fiscal year 2010.
     To the southwest of Asheville, located between downtown Brevard and Pisgah Forest, Transylvania Regional Hospital was originally formed in 1933. Now a 94-bed facility, Transylvania Regional offers comprehensive services through more than 120 active, consulting and courtesy physicians representing a full spectrum of specialties.
     Western North Carolina will provide the visitor or those looking to relocate with the best of all healthcare answers. []
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