Iredell Health System: ‘We’ve got your back’

While the future of two Iredell County hospitals hangs in the balance, the county’s largest and only nonprofit healthcare system is reassuring the public that it has your back. 

Iredell Health System says it’s prepared and ready to serve the community’s healthcare needs, no matter the outcome of the FTC complaint that has, at least temporarily, blocked Novant Health’s $320 million acquisition of Lake Norman Regional in Mooresville and Davis Regional in Statesville from their current owner, Community Health Systems.

“We have carefully accounted for today’s needs and tomorrow’s,” Iredell Health System (IHS) President and CEO John Green said in a recent sit-down with the Scoop. “We have actively worked to make sure to keep our community first and find ways to keep healthcare local and affordable.”

Local government officials have raised concerns that if Novant’s acquisition doesn’t go through and the current hospitals’ owner doesn’t want to keep the hospitals, then Lake Norman and Davis could close, causing IHS to be taxed with extra patients and leaving Mooresville without a hospital. County government officials recently sent a letter of support for Novant’s acquisition to U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell. 

According to the most recently available public data, Lake Norman Regional had a profit of more than $30 million last year. 

“I cannot, in my opinion, see a hospital not existing in Mooresville,” Green said reassuringly. “You don’t close facilities that are making money.” 

But regardless, he said, IHS’s commitment to the community isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the healthcare system has grown its commitment to the community — in more ways than one — the past couple years.

Davis Regional — the only other hospital in Statesville besides Iredell — abruptly closed its emergency room in August 2022, transforming the acute care hospital into solely a behavioral health medical center. 

Iredell Memorial knew it had to respond, and it didn’t have much time to figure out how. “It happened basically overnight,” Green said, calculating with Meagan Kowalski — IHS’s director of planning, community relations and marketing — that just 35 days elapsed between Davis’ announcement and its closing.

Green described the announcement and subsequent closing as “a seismic change” to healthcare in Statesville. “We knew we’d have a lot to handle quickly,” he said. “On Day 36, were we overwhelmed? Sure. But we rebounded quickly.” 

Iredell Memorial expansions

IHS immediately sprung into action after Davis closed to launch an 11,195-square-foot expansion to Iredell Memorial’s critical care unit, increasing beds from 16 to 27, and a 4,805-square-foot expansion to the emergency department.

“There are certainly times when patients had to wait a little longer, but our wait time is still right at the national average,” Green said, adding that the hospital last year had a period of only three hours when it had to divert EMS to a different hospital. 

“That was three hours last year — total — for EMS diversion,” Green said. “We were very proud of that. Even I was shocked to see how good that number was, recognizing the significant pressures placed on the Emergency Department with Davis’s closure.”

A sign of a hospital’s success or failure, Green explained, is the number of patients who arrive and leave without being seen. That number for Iredell Memorial was 3 percent in 2022 and 3.6 percent after Davis closed in 2023. The national average is 4.9 percent.

In other words, Green pointed out, “We got hit, and we reacted and acted progressively and proactively, and we’re still operating above the national average.

“We are always asking ourselves, How can we help?” he added. “We are a non-profit and community-based. We do what the community wants — we provide for the needs of our community. We recognize that when you work on a number of new projects, some will be more successful than others and sometimes you need to keep revising the projects for success. Thankfully, we have hit the mark on these projects so we can and will grow with the community.”

Urgent Care — Statesville

Not only did IHS expand its emergency department and critical care unit, but within a year of Davis closing, it also opened Iredell Urgent Care — Statesville, the only urgent care facility east of I-77, intentionally situated to serve “the Davis side of town,” Green said.

The urgent care was born out of necessity and also to help offset the additional patients Iredell would take on due to Davis’s closing. From the time Davis announced its closure until Iredell Urgent Care – Statesville opened, IHS saw a 24 percent increase in emergency department visits. That’s roughly 10,000 more visits than during the same time the previous year, Kowalski said. 

And the numbers since show the facility is meeting a need. “From June 20 until the end of December, we saw 6,700 patients in that facility,” which includes 14 exam rooms, a procedure room, and onsite x-ray and lab services for urgent care patients, Green said. 

Urgent Care — Statesville is open extended hours — 7 a.m.-11 p.m. — daily and on holidays and weekends. “We’re the only urgent care open that late,” Green said. “The working professionals of our city need that.”

Iredell Mooresville

Two years before opening Urgent Care — Statesville, IHS opened the 68,000-square-foot Iredell Mooresville at 653 Bluefield Road. It includes Iredell Urgent Care, the region’s only 24-hour urgent care, and the concept has been a wild success; the southern-Iredell urgent care facility has served more than 23,000 patients to date, Green said. 

Iredell Mooresville offers diagnostics services, mammograms, ultrasounds, X-rays and CT scans. It houses primary care physicians and specialists in the Iredell Physicians Network, along with physical, occupational and speech therapy. It also has an ambulatory surgery center with 38 credentialed surgeons in 11 different specialties, said Kowalski. 

Green said “1,100 surgeries … and growing” have been completed at the Mooresville surgical center.

Covid’s one silver lining

A vaccine-vial topiary tree sits in Green’s office — a reminder of what he called “a very chaotic” time in healthcare. “We were holding leadership meetings three times a day,” he recalled, adding that IHS gave out 65,000 vaccinations in the parking lot of Iredell Memorial and held drive-through clinics throughout the county, too.

Added Kowalski: “It’s not usual for a hospital to be a mass vaccinator, but we stepped up to the plate to be there for the community. It was all hands on deck: Even John (Green) directed traffic in the parking lot,” she said. Added Green, “But they would not allow me to use a needle!”

Green credits what the healthcare system learned during Covid for its quick responsiveness after Davis closed. “It forced us to make decisions, act promptly and not overthink too much because it was not something we could spend a lot of time pondering,” he said. “It taught us some great things and made us a stronger, more proactive and nimble organization.”

And what’s more, he said, “It galvanized us as a community.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.