- Insurer Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has agreed to buy all of FastMed’s urgent care centers and family medicine clinics in the state.
- FastMed manages 55 locations in North Carolina, according to the provider’s website, and it will operate independently from the nonprofit Blue Cross NC after the acquisition. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close early next year, weren’t disclosed.
- The insurer plans on building the clinics back to pre-pandemic service operations after they suffered from provider shortages in recent years, Blue Cross NC said in the deal’s announcement.
The announcement comes as FastMed has recently agreed to sell some of its clinics in other states.
HCA Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health systems, announced in May it would purchase 41 of the chain’s sites in Texas. Nonprofit health system HonorHealth said this summer it would buy out the remaining stake in 26 urgent care centers in Arizona from the provider.
Blue Cross NC, which has been a non-controlling minority investor in FastMed since 2012, said the acquisition, which was announced on Friday, would boost healthcare capacity in North Carolina, noting that approximately half of FastMed’s North Carolina clinics are located in rural regions with limited access to care.
Between 2016 and 2021, North Carolina lost more than 9% of its direct care workforce, according to data cited by Blue Cross NC from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the state’s Department of Commerce.
Before the pandemic, North Carolina was already facing a projected shortage of 12,500 registered nurses and 5,000 licensed practical nurses by 2033, according to the University of North Carolina’s Sheps Center for Health Services Research.
The COVID-19 pandemic burned out additional healthcare providers across the country, pushing some to leave their jobs and exacerbating already tenuous staffing situations for many facilities, particularly those in rural communities.
More than 145,000 providers left the industry from 2021 through 2022, with the highest number of exits from physicians and nurse practitioners, according to a recent report from data and analytics company Definitive Healthcare.