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Hospitals feel effects of an aging NC population

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Hospitals feel effects of an aging NC population


North Carolina is among the fastest growing areas in the country. The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Wake County specifically is seeing tremendous growth, especially among older populations.

Wake County reports it is growing by an average of 51 people a day.

NCDHHS Division of Aging said it is already preparing for the long-lasting effects of the recent rapid growth.

“In 2022 1 in 6 people was 65+, by 2025 – which is just next year – that number will change to 1 in 5 people,” explained Rebecca Freeman.

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Freeman overseas NCDHHS’ Division of Aging. She said the state expects to see a 48% increase in population by 2042.

“It’s really the whole of government that all areas are preparing for the aging of our state. Not just health and human services, but commerce, transportation, cultural and natural resources,” Freeman said. “As our entire state ages, everybody has to be thinking about that.”

The division is expected to release its new All Ages, All States NC plan this September after Gov. Roy Cooper issued Executive Order 280 in May 2023.

The impact of an aging Triangle is something Dr. Christine Khandelwal sees both at work and within her own family.

“My consults when I used to work in the hospital side has changed dramatically from more younger, chronically ill (people) to now just more older, aged people who need a geriatrician,” she said. “I also personally have parents that moved down here to retire, so they also, as they age, are going to need providers.”

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Khandelwal has been practicing with the WakeMed system for over 10 years. She currently works as a geriatric palliative care physician and is the vice chair of medicine with WakeMed Raleigh.

“Everywhere we are seeing a great need for geriatric workforce. Not just physicians, but any of us that care for patients in general in the community: nurse practitioners, PAs (physician’s assistants), our social workers, physical therapists and rehab teams,” said Khandelwal. “All of us need to be more knowledgeable in how to care for the older population.”

The geriatrician is also a member of the Campbell University School of Medicine, helping train the next generation of physicians.

“We’re fortunate that we have some great geriatric fellowship training in the state,” Khandelwal said. “I trained at UNC, and I have some dear colleagues still that I reach out to as I develop my program here at WakeMed, but certainly not enough to be able to handle the growing population need.”

Khandelwal said she hopes to see more students graduate and pursue careers in geriatric care to help meet demand.

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“We have to grow and develop a workforce that’s going to be ready to take on the needs of the aging population. In North Carolina I believe we have about 282 boarded geriatricians like myself,” the doctor added.

Cary is one of the areas seeing the largest growth in Wake County with 15.5% of people aged 65 and older. The county average is 13%.

WakeMed Cary recently became the latest hospital to take a big step toward becoming more age friendly. In February, the hospital became the second in the state to receive the highest Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation.

“It acknowledges that we want to do better care. It takes great leadership and support to get to that recognition,” Khandelwal said.

In 2023, geriatric patients accounted for 30% of all emergency room visits to WakeMed Cary.

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Across the WakeMed system, about 33% of the patient population is now aged 65 and older.

Other hospital systems in the Triangle also tell WRAL News that aging patient populations are growing there too.

Duke Health reports 24% of its patient population is aged 65+, while UNC Health reports it is at 38%.



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North Carolina

North Carolina man arrested in death of neighbor near church

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North Carolina man arrested in death of neighbor near church


Mark Drake (Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office)

A North Carolina man has been arrested and charged with the murder of his neighbor.  

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Mark Drake, 57, was arrested for felony murder on Wednesday. His arrest came after the death of 61-year-old Melissa Marcum. 

According to the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Marcum’s car was found in the middle of Walker Road near the Ranger Baptist Church just southwest of Murphy on July 19. Marcum’s body was found nearby after searching the area. 

Deputies and agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation were led to Drake but have not released details about what connects him to her death or a possible motive. 

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Both Drake and Marcum lived along Walker Road, according to online records. 

Investigators are asking anyone with further information in the case to call the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office at 828-837-2589. 



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North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper fielding questions about a spot on the national Democratic ticket • Source New Mexico

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North Carolina’s Gov. Roy Cooper fielding questions about a spot on the national Democratic ticket • Source New Mexico


Gov. Roy Cooper’s job firing up crowds for the Democratic presidential ticket this year would appear to be at odds with the subdued demeanor of a longtime North Carolina office holder not given to verbal flourishes.

He got audiences going in a call-and-response, with the crowd shouting “No” when Cooper asked if they wanted a second Donald Trump term.

Cooper’s measured responses to questions Monday morning on whether he would consider becoming Vice President Kamala Harris’ running mate now that President Joe Biden has dropped out of the race was the Cooper that North Carolinians are much more used to hearing.

“I appreciate people talking about me, but I think the focus right now needs to be on her this week,” Cooper said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “She needs to concentrate on making sure that she secures this nomination and gets this campaign ready to go.”

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After Biden bowed out on Sunday, Cooper thanked Biden, calling him “among our nation’s finest presidents,” on X, formerly Twitter, and endorsed Harris.

Cooper, 67, is serving his second term as governor and cannot run for a third. Even before Biden announced Sunday he was leaving the race, there was speculation about a role for Cooper in the second term of a Biden administration.

Cooper’s steady climb through North Carolina’s political ranks and his position as a Democratic governor in a swing state has pundits measuring his potential as Harris’ running mate.  US Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear are also mentioned as potential vice presidential candidates who could join Harris on the ticket.

Keeping healthcare and public schools in the forefront

Introducing Biden and Harris at North Carolina rallies gave Cooper a chance to tout Medicaid expansion in North Carolina, a premier accomplishment of his administration. He announced at a news conference this month that more than 500,000 residents had enrolled in the expanded program. At campaign rallies, he paints the image of Trump ripping a health insurance card out of someone’s hand.

Cooper started fighting for Medicaid expansion even before he officially took office after defeating one-term Republican Pat McCrory in 2016. Leading Republicans in the legislature dismissed all calls for Medicaid expansion for years. Cooper kept health care and Medicaid expansion at the forefront, even though the state was not able to offer more people health insurance under Medicaid expansion without the GOP-controlled legislature’s approval.

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Republicans reconsidered after the American Rescue Plan Biden signed in 2021 included financial incentives for states that had not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. 

Republicans put Medicaid expansion in the budget they passed last year. Cooper allowed the budget to become law without his signature because it included Medicaid expansion — even though it was stuffed with items he did not want such as an expansion of private school vouchers.

Cooper has repeatedly denounced private school vouchers and built his education agenda on increasing spending on public education and teacher raises. But his tenure as governor in large part has been shaped by issues involving health, health insurance, and disputes with Republicans in the legislature over policy priorities.

Tested by the COVID pandemic

The 2020 campaign for governor revolved largely around his responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper clashed with Republican legislators over health-related business closures and the duration of public school closures.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest challenged Cooper with a campaign that leaned heavily on lifting COVID restrictions and opening public schools. Forest sued over some of Cooper’s COVID executive orders, but was shut down in court. Forest went on to lose the governor’s race to Cooper by more than four percentage points.

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Bar owners had more success challenging Cooper’s COVID rules. They sued over Cooper’s decision to keep bars closed while allowing restaurants to open with capacity limits a few months into the pandemic. The state Court of Appeals ruled last April that Cooper had violated bar owners’ rights.

Nationally, North Carolina’s handling of the pandemic was praised by the Biden administration. Biden appointed Dr. Mandy Cohen, who was  Cooper’s first Health and Human Services secretary, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A weak office needed a negotiator

The governor’s office in North Carolina was designed to be weak. North Carolina governors don’t have a line-item veto and cannot veto redistricting bills.

Republicans have controlled the legislature for Cooper’s entire tenure as governor. In the years Republicans did not have supermajorities in the House and Senate — and were not able to override his vetoes — Cooper was able to push for negotiations on issues and stifle bills he opposed.

Convincing Democrats to uphold his vetoes meant Cooper “was able to participate in the discussion,” said state Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue of Raleigh.

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Cooper had “a profound impact on where the state was going,” Blue said. “He moderated the Republicans’ hardline positions on multiple occasions.”

Cooper’s supporters note that he has never lost a race from the time he won a House seat in 1986 after beating a 12-term Democratic incumbent. Cooper repeatedly won statewide office while Democratic presidential candidates most often fell short. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win North Carolina was Barack Obama in 2008.

Cooper grew up on a tobacco farm in Nash County. His mother was a teacher and his father a lawyer.

He attended UNC Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship and received his law degree from UNC.

He is a devoted fan of the UNC Tar Heels and Carolina Hurricanes NHL team.

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A Charlotte Observer article from 1988 described Cooper as a “star of the legislative basketball team” who kept a low profile in his first term.

“I would like to serve between three and five terms in the legislature,” the article quotes Cooper saying. “During that time I would have been able to make an impact and accomplish things I want to accomplish.

“And 15 years from now I think I could look to some other office or make a living practicing law.”

After a stint in the state House, Cooper was appointed to a Senate seat in 1991, where he rose to become the chamber’s Majority Leader.

He won the first of four successful races for state Attorney General in 2000.

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He rejected calls to run for governor in 2008, and resisted a push for him to challenge incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole that year.

North Carolina Democrats are wondering whether Cooper’s career ladder leads to the vice presidency.

After they voted to endorse Harris for president on Sunday, state party chair Anderson Clayton reported that North Carolina delegates to the Democratic National Convention “are enthusiastically supportive of Gov. Cooper becoming the nominee for our vice president as well.”

NC Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. NC Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Rob Schofield for questions: [email protected]. Follow NC Newsline on Facebook and X.

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WATCH: Experts testify in NC Utilities Commission hearing on costs of Carbon Plan

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WATCH: Experts testify in NC Utilities Commission hearing on costs of Carbon Plan


The North Carolina Utilities Commission is hearing testimony Wednesday from expert witnesses evaluating the impacts of Duke Energy’s “Carbon Plan/Integrated Resource Plan,” its roadmap for how it will achieve emissions reductions and carbon neutrality as mandated in House Bill 951. The experts — including Kendal Bowman, president of all of Duke’s utility operations in North



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