Published: Jan 22, 2013 12:00 PM
Modified: Jan 22, 2013 11:30 AM
HOLLY SPRINGS - In ones and pairs, patients trudged, hobbled and sometimes just walked out of the oppressive fog and into Rex Healthcares atrium-like lobby last Wednesday morning.
Some were first-time visitors, driven in by the nasty flu thats spreading this season. Others have been coming since the 30,000-square-foot medical building opened a year ago.
So far, Rex has found burgeoning Holly Springs to be just the market it expected. The buildings general physician, pediatric office and urgent care center all are seeing at least 20 patients daily.
Why venture out when the services rendered here are just the same? asked Patrick Worthy, a 50-year-old Holly Springs resident, as he waited for an appointment in David Tsais practice on the second floor.
That simple logic has led hospital groups, like any chain, to chase demand into Holly Springs and other towns on the suburban fringe.
While Rex has a much-more visible presence with its glass-and-brick building, WakeMeds also reaching for the local market with its smaller Holly Springs Medical Center, which was created from a formerly independent practice.
Rexs early success, including 750 monthly visits to its urgent care, has bolstered the health-care systems expansion plans for the area. Rex already has won state approval to build a full-fledged hospital on the site and plans to add a second medical office.
The Holly Springs hospital plan, however, is tied up by the ongoing certificate-of-need fight between Rex and WakeMed, which likely wont be heard by the N.C. Court of Appeals until early next year.
That doesnt mean medical companies are frozen in place here, though. Rex may soon bring on a second full-time general physician, and its finalizing plans to open a cardiology practice in Holly Springs.
The company also bought about two acres to prepare for future construction at its site on Avent Ferry Road. Shifting industry
Large hospitals localized expansions are also a sign of the consolidation of medical practices.
David Tsai, for example, ran his own practice in Austin before joining Rex and eventually becoming the hospital systems full-time general physician in Holly Springs.
It was the administrative part of medicine that made it very challenging, Tsai said.
While he thinks he could have made it on his own for a few more years, its more manageable to be with a large group, he said.
Like quite a few doctors, he finds himself wishing hed gone to business school so that could keep up with an ever-complicating health-care business.
Hospitals increasing presence on the edge of suburbia also has an effect in more rural areas. While many of Rexs regular patients in Holly Springs are local, the urgent care facility draws injured and sick people from as far as Lillington, according to Sara Martin, a practice manager for Rex in Holly Springs.
Were drawing from two or three counties, she said.
Of course, that may not last long: Harnett Health System was scheduled to open its own hospital in Lillington, 30 miles south, last Friday.