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Court grants HCA extension of deadline for response in state lawsuit about Mission Health

An emergency room sign at Mission Hospital in Asheville.
An emergency room sign at Mission Hospital in Asheville.

The North Carolina Business Court on Thursday approved a request by HCA Healthcare for more time to respond to a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Josh Stein’s office, with the new deadline set for February 13.

In a motion filed with the North Carolina Business Court, the for-profit hospital giant noted that the original deadline was January 16.

“Defendants’ counsel, however, would benefit from additional time to respond in light of the length of the Complaint,” HCA’s attorneys wrote. “Consequently, Defendants request that the deadline for answering or otherwise responding to the Complaint be extended to Tuesday, February 13, 2024.”

Stein’s office agreed to the motion, HCA’s lawyers said in the filing. A spokesperson for Stein confirmed the new deadline.

The move comes one month after Stein (D) sued HCA Healthcare, alleging that it had breached the terms of its 2019 purchase of Asheville-based Mission Health System by failing to provide quality emergency and oncology care at its facilities.

HCA has defended its operations, noting that it has routinely received the green light from an independent monitor set up to oversee its compliance with the terms of its 2019 purchase of Mission Health.

Yet in a sign of HCA’s mounting difficulties amid the escalating legal battle, the role of that independent monitor is set to expand. Dogwood Health Trust, which hires the monitor, recently announced that it is seeking applicants for a redefined monitor role whose duties will now include engaging with the attorney general’s office in addition to conducting increased education and community engagement activities.

Felicia Sonmez is a reporter covering growth and development for Blue Ridge Public Radio.