Mecklenburg County is home to two large and competitive health care systems – Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health.
Each owns multiple hospitals and doctors’ offices and offers a wide range of state-of-the-art services, for everything from cancer and heart disease to pediatrics and maternity care.
Carolinas HealthCare is a nonprofit government entity, one of the largest public hospital systems in the country. It owns or manages more than 40 hospitals from the North Carolina mountains to the South Carolina coast. The flagship and the largest hospital in the chain is Carolinas Medical Center, which has the region’s only Level I trauma center and organ transplant program.
Novant, a private nonprofit system based in Winston-Salem, owns 14 hospitals in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. That includes four in Mecklenburg – Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center, Novant Health Charlotte Orthopedic Hospital, Novant Health Matthews Medical Center and Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center.
Other hospitals in the Charlotte region are CaroMont Regional Medical Center, operated by private, nonprofit CaroMont Health in Gaston County, Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, owned by the for-profit Tenet Healthcare, and Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville, owned by the for-profit Community Health Systems.
Tenet’s Piedmont is in the midst of a nearly 10-year battle with Carolinas HealthCare over which system will win approval from South Carolina health authorities to build a new hospital in Fort Mill, S.C., to serve that growing population just across the North Carolina border.
What’s new: Behavioral health growth
The newest hospital in the Charlotte area opened in Davidson in April. It’s a 66-bed, $32 million adult psychiatric hospital, helping to relieve the shortage of beds for patients with behavioral health problems who are often left waiting for days in hospital emergency rooms.
Carolinas HealthCare System first proposed the hospital three years ago to ease overcrowding at the county’s psychiatric hospital on Billingsley Road. That 66-bed hospital, called Carolinas Medical Center-Randolph, has the state's only psychiatric emergency room and will continue operation.
CMC-Randolph was owned by Mecklenburg County until 2012, when Carolinas HealthCare, which had managed the hospital, took ownership. Part of the reason for the bed shortage is that about half of state-operated psychiatric beds have been moved in recent years. Broughton Hospital, the state’s psychiatric hospital in Morganton, once received several hundred patients from Charlotte a year but takes fewer transfers now. In fact, the Davidson hospital’s 66 beds were transferred from Broughton, part of the down-sizing of state-owned psychiatric hospitals.
Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center also has 75 psychiatric beds at the hospital on Hawthorne Lane.
Finding a doctor
Mecklenburg hospital systems have websites that can help patients find medical doctors in their hospital-owned practices.
• For Carolinas HealthCare, go towww.carolinashealthcare.org/physician-directory
• For Novant Health, seewww.novanthealth.org/doctor
The Mecklenburg County Medical Society and the Charlotte Dental Society can also help find doctors and dentists. Call 704-376-3688 for the medical society; 704-376-6555 for the dental society.
Many area medical doctors are employed by hospital systems. That gives them freedom from administrative duties and overhead, and they can also share on-call duties with colleagues. But in many instances, this also means the cost of care is higher, and they may have less time to spend with patients.
Doctors who own their own practices struggle with increasing government regulation and decreasing reimbursement from insurance companies. They typically charge less and can spend more time with patients. About 100 doctors in the Mecklenburg area are members of Independent Physicians of the Carolinas. See www.findcarolinasdoctors.org.
Licensure and complaints
Licensing boards in North Carolina and South Carolina keep tabs on doctors, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, pharmacists and other health-care professionals.
You can find out about license status and disciplinary history by checking websites for specific professions. If you have a problem with a health-care professional, you can file a formal complaint and ask for an investigation by the appropriate regulatory body.
Here are some licensing boards in the Carolinas:
• North Carolina Medical Board: 919-326-1100; 800-253-9653;www.ncmedboard.org
• South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners: 803-896-4500;www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/medical
• North Carolina Board of Nursing: 919-782-3211;www.ncbon.com
• South Carolina Board of Nursing: 803-896-4550;www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/nursing
• North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners: 919-678-8223;www.ncdentalboard.org
• North Carolina Board of Pharmacy: 919-246-1050;www.ncbop.org
• North Carolina Board of Chiropractic Examiners:www.ncchiroboard.com
• South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation: 803-896-4300;www.llr.state.sc.us