About a dozen citizens turned out for a public hearing on Friday to discuss the possible sale of Lillie Bennett Nursing Center in Wadesboro.
The hearing was held at Anson Community Hospital, which sits adjacent to the nursing home. Once Anson Community Hospital is closed and the new Carolinas HealthCare System — Anson facility on U.S. 74 is opened, the hospital will be demolished. The county owns two brick early 1900s-era buildings on the property, which are in the process of being sold. And now, Carolinas HealthCare System wishes to sell Lillie Bennett Nursing Center as well.
At the start of Friday’s public hearing, Anson Community Hospital president Dr. Fred Thompson said, “Let me clarify our intentions. Lillie Bennett Nursing Center is very important to Carolinas HealthCare System, and very important to Anson County. We have no intentions of closing the nursing home. We hope to find a buyer that specializes in nursing service.”
With Lillie Bennett operated by another nursing home care-focused company, Dr. Thompson said, Carolinas HealthCare System will be better able to focus on the new hospital facility.
Neal Jones was the first to speak at the hearing, saying that he had been provided with a copy of the hospital’s board of trustees resolution to sell Lillie Bennett Nursing Center. “I do not think it does what Fred says it’s going to do,” he said. Jones said he could foresee legal issues if the healthcare system decides to close Lillie Bennett.
“I think you need to be more thorough,” he said. One of the problems with Carolinas HealthCare System retaining ownership of the nursing home is that food would no longer be easily delivered from the main hospital. “It’s not a big problem to take food to the center from [the new hospital],” Jones said. “We have Meals on Wheels that comes here every day from Fayetteville.”
Dr. Victoria Rommel also spoke during the public hearing, saying that Lillie Bennett Nursing Center is “no longer economically viable” for CHS. “What will happen if a suitable buyer is not found?” she asked, adding, “When we have suffered sufficient financial losses, they can legally close it.”
Dr. Rommel also said that she and other citizens need a guarantee that the nursing center will not be closed.
Foyle Hightower spoke on behalf of the Wadesboro Civitan Club, reading a resolution the club has passed in support of Lillie Bennett Nursing Center. “The Wadesboro Civitan Club asks Carolinas HealthCare System to do everything it can to continue operating Lillie Bennett Nursing Center in Wadesboro,” he said.
Joyce McGregor was the final speaker during the hearing. She said her mother has been in Lillie Bennett Nursing Center since last year, and it has been a blessing for her family. “You have a great staff there and I appreciate that,” she said. “I pray that you’ll keep Lillie Bennett open.”
Mike Lutes, vice president at CHS, stated that he was happy to hear of the admiration in the community for Lillie Bennett Nursing Center. He reiterated that there are no intentions of closing the facility. “It’s about doing the right thing for your loved ones that are in our care,” he said. “I know the members of this board will take to heart everything that was said.”
After the hearing, Dr. Thompson said that the board has asked for proposals for Lillie Bennett Nursing Center by Feb. 18, and some companies have already toured the facility. A decision will probably come in the next four weeks, he added.