New Hanover County To Hold Hearing On NHRMC Future

Jun 14, 2020

It was 11 months ago that New Hanover County announced they were going to explore selling the Regional Medical Center.  Last week, county officials and residents heard from the top three candidates under consideration.

Three finalists for a partnership with NHRMC took the stage last week. Atrium, Novant, and Duke.  Over the County website and Facebook, they made presentations to the public, and afterwards in closed session to the Partnership Advisory Group. 

“So we do know that you have a tough choice to make our goal tonight is to make that choice a little bit easier, by sharing why we believe Atrium to be your best partner, and our goal is to really describe what makes us different…..”

“My name's Carl Armato, I'm the CEO of Novant Health and I've been with Novant for 22 years. Now I'm in my ninth year as the CEO and with my 33 years of healthcare experience…..”

“Good evening. I am Dr. Jean Washington and I have the great pleasure of serving as Chancellor for Health Affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System…

Barbara Biehner is co-chair of the County’s Partnership Advisory Group.

“Well, we've pretty much wrapped up all of the presentations with the top three respondents. The partnership advisory group will continue to meet. It's got three meetings scheduled between now and middle of July to continue the discussions about the proposal, as well as the status quo and restructuring options. We will continue this discussion with input from all of the meetings, the virtual ones, the large group ones, as well as then the public hearing, which will be held to prior to making any decisions.”

That hearing is a week from today. 

When Biehner, co-chair of the PAG,  mentions the “statue quo and restructuring options” she’s referencing the possibility that the hospital might still remain independent. 

But Gene Merritt of the Save Our Hospital group doubts that option remains on the table.

“I don't really think so. I think it should be, but I don't think it is. I think that that is just a bit of a diversionary tactic to make us think that, they are still considering it. I would love to believe that they are considering it. But based on all of their actions today, I find it difficult to believe that they are.”

Merritt says Save Our Hospital has been consistent since day one in their messaging. They still want to see the process slow down. 

“You know, our message has never changed from the very beginning, that we felt that what's the hurry. Why all the rush to get to the finish line. Your process is backwards. That's a broken way to do things. That's not the way people do things in a business like fashion. Our basic message would be that our number one priority would be obviously retaining the hospital as it is, but admitting that it might need some reorganization and changes, that would be our number one.”

Next up in the process is a public hearing on Monday, June 22, at the New Hanover County Courthouse in downtown Wilmington.

While details are still being worked out, it is expected to be both an in-person hearing, plus broadcast over the usual county channels. 

Three other health systems--while not finalists--are nominally  still in the running -- Bon Secours - Healthspan, HCA Healthcare and UNC Health.  

Biener says she was impressed by last week’s presentations.

“I think what really has hit home over this last week is the intensity of the commitment of the respondent to health equity, social determinants of health, and really focusing on the community of our region and how best we can partner to make it better for everyone.”

Vince Winkel, WHQR News.