Public Weighs In On Medical Center's Future

Aug 20, 2019

New Hanover County hosted two meetings about the possible sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center. The forums on Monday and Tuesday were the only opportunities for members of the public to express their thoughts on the matter. They were not public hearings, but listening sessions. 

Hundreds of county residents attended a pair of meetings this week, to learn about the possible sale of the county-owned Medical Center and offer their opinions.

Last month Medical Center CEO John Gizdic and County Manager Chris Coudriet announced that County Commissioners would vote on an “intent to sell” resolution in September. This would allow them to explore the sale of the entire system. They both spoke at this week’s public forums. Chris Coudriet.

“That is what we're here to talk about. We want to hear from everybody in this room. I'm sure there's a lot of opinions about should the board adopt the resolution that we're proposing, yes or no. What I hope we are able to facilitate as a discussion about what is important as it relates to healthcare delivery going forward. Maybe it's a different model, maybe it's not, but we want to hear directly from you what is important about healthcare….”

A lot of folks stepped up to the microphone. Most of them opposed to selling the hospital.

“I am a nurse practitioner and a healthcare attorney and I'm very concerned when the sale of the only hospital in town is up for grabs. And I have a lot of questions about, are we going from a nonprofit to a for-profit. Are the patients going to suffer? What happens to pensions for those who are available for pensions? How come there hasn't been a whole lot of publicity about what the medical center is thinking? Are we not putting the cart before the horse here? What is going to happen to the number of beds, the number of specialty beds? You look around this room and there are a lot of gray hairs in here …. Or bottle-blonds like me…..”

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“There's huge uncertainty about future healthcare direction, which means we should spend months studying what to do here. What's the rush? This is feeling very jammed in. We should have a commission. We should spend months talking about it as a community as opposed to putting it up to two boards.”

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“I want to see a hospital in our area that cares about local people that has a board that lives here and actually get services from the people in this community. A board that cares about blue collar and pink collar workers and wants to maintain the quality salaries that we have at one of our largest employers. We have a lot to lose with this process.”

(XFADE)

“This is a terrible idea. This is an absolute awful idea. Every county hospital that I've worked at - you said that this is an anomaly, there's county hospital that's making money. It’s not an anomaly. It's, it's incredible. It's a gift. It's something that this community has and then we should continue to have… "

There were also those who spoke in support of the possible sale. Natalie English is President and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.

“I'm really proud of our healthcare system. It's one of the best in the state. We get to brag about that all the time. It's a part of what I do every day. That's what I want in the future. I want to continue to be able to brag about our healthcare system and I'm not sure I'll be able to, if we don't ask the question and do the research to make sure we are thinking outside the box. We need to consider every option to ensure that we can continue to brag about this healthcare system.”

New Hanover County Commissioner Chair Jonathan Barfield Jr. says he came away with a lot from the meetings.

“Give the people what they want, let them voice their concerns and then digest it. Overwhelming - What I heard tonight was ‘we don't want this’. And that's what I've heard throughout our entire community. And for me this has been a great listening session. Just to sit back and listen, not to make comments, but to sit back and listen to what our citizens are telling us that they want to see happen with their hospital.”

The commissioners are scheduled to vote on the non-binding “intent to sell” resolution on September 3rd. Vince Winkel, WHQR News.