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Attorney raises concerns over Wilson Medical Center’s care

Attorney Will Farris addresses Wilson County commissioners on Monday, raising concerns about Wilson Medical Center in the wake of a report showing the hospital failed to follow Medicare rules and could be dropped from the federal program if deficiencies aren’t corrected. Olivia Neeley | Times

Attorney Will Farris called on county commissioners Monday to publicly discuss the gravity of a scathing report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the possibility that Wilson Medical Center could be disqualified from Medicare participation.

“We are in immediate jeopardy of losing Medicare funding,” Farris, a partner at Farris & Thomas Law, told commissioners during the public comment portion of their regular monthly meeting. “Less than 3% of the hospitals that are surveyed have that problem. But our response from the hospital was, ‘How can you rely on one survey?’”

Before delving into his concerns, Farris said his comments don’t reflect on the hospital’s doctors, nurses and other health care workers.

Farris said he decided to address county commissioners because he’s disappointed in himself for supporting the 2014 joint venture agreement between Duke LifePoint Healthcare and Wilson Medical Center.

After the 2014 hospital deal, Duke LifePoint has an 80% stake in Wilson Medical Center Holding Co. LLC, while the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson has a 20% stake.

He said he was equally disappointed that recent reports flagging Medicare violations and deficiencies at the hospital weren’t listed on the Board of Commissioners’ agenda for discussion.

“It’s time to start talking to the public,” Farris said.


A June 24 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ regional office in Atlanta warned that the hospital’s Medicare provider agreement would be terminated on July 17 if violations of the Medicare Conditions of Participation aren’t remedied. Wilson Medical Center CEO Mark Holyoak signed the report containing the correction plan on June 28.

Regulators flagged the deficiencies after conducting a complaint investigation at the hospital from May 17-19.

RELATED STORY: Wilson Medical Center submits plan to fix Medicare violations

Holyoak and hospital board Chair Janice A. Walston acknowledged the issues in a July 4 letter to employees and community members, writing that they anticipated a follow-up visit “in the coming weeks” to confirm that all violations have been corrected. If surveyors find the hospital in compliance, Wilson Medical Center won’t be dropped from the Medicare program.

The issues were described in a 45-page report the News & Observer obtained through a records request last week. That report, which included the hospital’s plan of correction, tied violations of Medicare rules to two patient deaths, a suicidal man left waiting in the emergency department with prescription pills and a psychiatric patient discharged to the same group home that kicked her out.

RELATED STORY: Report cites violations in hospital patient deaths

Farris said Wilson Medical Center is one of three North Carolina hospitals that has a one-star rating from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency assigns ratings of one to five stars based on five quality metrics: mortality, safety of care, readmission, patient experience and timely and effective care.

“When you guys went into this joint venture, the idea was to put patient care before profit,” he said.


Farris wanted to point out several issues he believes Wilson residents need to know. Through its hospitals, he said, Brentwood, Tennessee-based LifePoint Health has hauled in about $1.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funds since July 2021.

Farris contends that hospital quality has worsened since private equity firm Apollo Global Management bought LifePoint Health in 2018.

“We have a shrinking hospital,” he said.

Wilson Medical Center is licensed to operate 294 beds, but Farris claimed fewer than 100 beds are being used.

“That’s gone tremendously down since it was taken over,” he said. “Because that’s happening, it’s causing our ER to back up because you have people sitting in rooms in the ER for one, two and three days instead of going up to rooms. Some of those are my clients. Some of those are your family members. That’s despicable. We need to find out and fix this.”

Farris said he could make the argument that Duke LifePoint isn’t meeting the five standards state law requires when a county-owned hospital enters a partnership with a private entity.

“Why are we not talking about this? We’re crushing the low socioeconomic groups in Wilson by letting this happen to the hospital,” he said. “We’re crushing business.”

Farris said he isn’t blaming county commissioners for the issues, but he asked them to “please start asking questions, and please inform the public.”


Commissioner Chris Hill told The Wilson Times on Tuesday that he will invite representatives from Duke and LifePoint to address the Board of Commissioners in response to the Medicare findings and ongoing hospital issues.

“As a resident of Wilson County, I want nothing less than the highest quality service delivery and care from Wilson Medical Center,” said Hill, who also serves as chairman of the hospital joint venture board whose members include community members and Duke LifePoint officials.

“I want to be clear that Wilson County citizens deserve the very best health care services from our hospital.”