Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: My wife and I drive past the overpass of Future I-26 every morning close to the intersection of Old Burnsville Hill Road and Riverside Drive, close to the IPEX PVC plant. Each time, I’m troubled by the sight depicted in the attached photos. It appears as if the earth under a giant concrete slab has washed away, causing one of the slabs to collapse entirely. The pics don’t do them justice. These slabs are enormous. Which brings me to my questions: Is NCDOT aware of this? Just how dangerous is it? Is the above roadway in danger of collapsing? Are there plans to repair it? Am I a freaking idiot for continuing to drive under it? And, if you can answer this as well, I’d be grateful: What are these damn things called? Are they overpasses, or underpasses? Can one drive under an overpass, over an underpass — or what?
My answer: In more positive news, this is great new wildlife habitat for lizards, snakes and the occasional denning bear. Not a great place to hike, though.
Real answer: While the failed concrete slabs are indeed pretty alarming to look at, they don’t pose a serious threat to the bridge’s stability, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
“Most importantly, the concrete slabs that have been undermined by water drainage are not structural to the bridge,” Chris Deyton, a maintenance engineer with the DOT’s Asheville office, said via email. “The bridge is safe for traffic on Future I-26 to drive on, and it’s safe for traffic on Old Burnsville Hill Road to drive under.”
Deyton also noted that the bridge, which, by the way, DOT simply refers to as “a bridge,” also passed its bi-annual inspection.
“The broken slabs are mostly cosmetic, and help reduce erosion under the bridge along the slope,” Deyton said. “We hope to implement a repair this summer.”
Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “overpass” this way: “a crossing of two highways or of a highway and pedestrian path or railroad at different levels where clearance to traffic on the lower level is obtained by elevating the higher level. Also: the upper level of such a crossing.”
And it defines “underpass” as, “a crossing of a highway and another way (such as a road or railroad) at different levels. Also: the lower level of such a crossing.
So in this case, the bridge would be the overpass, Future I-26 the underpass. And yes, you’re driving under an overpass and over an underpass.
Question: I was reading an article in the Citizen Times about Mission Hospital and the lawsuit over the new 67-bed hospital AdventHealth plans to build. Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell was quoted as saying the hospital could open 12 ICU beds “immediately” if granted the state Certificate of Need (CON) to serve current patients. Why can’t they serve their patients now?
My answer: I’m not sure, but I think it’s safe to say that by the time this hospital gets built, all 67 patients will have croaked.
Real answer: By way of background, North Carolina’s Certificate of Need program is a fine piece of bureaucracy that requires health care organizations to get state permission to build a variety of new facilities. The program is part of the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation, which in turn is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
On the CON website, it states, “The North Carolina Certificate of Need (CON) law prohibits health care providers from acquiring, replacing, or adding to their facilities and equipment, except in specified circumstances, without the prior approval of the Department of Health and Human Services. Prior approval is also required for the initiation of certain medical services. The law restricts unnecessary increases in health care costs and limits unnecessary health services and facilities based on geographic, demographic and economic considerations.”
As part of the recently passed expansion of Medicaid in North Carolina, some of the CON regulations will be curtailed. But for the purposes of this hospital, the full law is still in place.
AdventHealth, based in Henderson County, got the CON approval for the new hospital in Buncombe County last year. But Mission, which also applied for the CON approval, appealed the decision.
In the Citizen Times article, Lindell said, “We are appealing because we strongly believe Mission Hospital can best meet Western North Carolina’s growing need for complex medical and surgical care. Mission could immediately open 12 ICU beds which are desperately needed by our current patients.”
I asked Lindell for a deeper explanation, and she responded Wednesday via email, first noting that by state regulations, Mission “cannot open any new licensed beds without Certificate of Need approval.”
“It was the high utilization of Mission’s existing services (particularly neuro/trauma ICU and adult medical surgical beds) that generated the need for 67 beds in the State Medical Facilities Plan,” Lindell said. “Mission Hospital is currently utilizing our approved licensed beds well above the state’s target occupancy, and at that level, there are no unused licensed beds to transition to ICU use.”
“If Mission were awarded the CON to expand that count by 67, there are steps that could be taken relatively quickly to convert 12 observation beds to 12 ICU beds,” Lindell continued.
She also noted that Mission continues to accept “thousands of patient transfers from other hospitals locally and across the region, however, we also had to decline thousands more due to lack of bed capacity.”
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.