The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, in a 3 – 2 split vote, have moved to pursue the possible sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center. That means the largest employer in the county, a healthcare system that serves seven counties, could soon be on the market.
“No Sale, No Sale, No sale…”
An hour before the County Commissioners meeting a group opposed to the resolution gathers outside Government Center.
‘Vote No, Go Slow, Vote No, Go Slow…”
They don’t think selling the county-owned medical center is a good idea. Inside the meeting hall, there isn’t a seat available as the vote draws near.
“The next item on our agenda, item number 17, the hot topic of the day, consideration of resolution of intent to sell New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Presenting will be County Manager Chris Coudriet and hospital CEO John Gizdic ….”
“I am proud to stand here before you representing New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Our community is truly fortunate to have such a remarkable health system.”
The talk in the days leading up to the vote? The resolution would pass by a 3-2 margin.
Just hours before the meeting, State Senator Harper Peterson sends a letter to Attorney General Josh Stein. It’s a formal complaint about the process. Peterson says much needs to be clarified, there is confusion about what has gone on behind the scenes, and the state needs to be aware of this.
One by one, the County Commissioners explain where they stand.
“I am opposed to the resolution of intent to sell for New Hanover Regional Medical Center. I've spoken to hundreds of citizens across our county and the vast majority of them share my concerns. This process is being rushed unnecessarily, that is not transparent and that important stakeholders in this decision are being ignored. There's been a lack of transparency in the process despite assurances that this is just about information gathering. A consulting firm representing the hospital has already been in touch with a number of large healthcare systems. What are the results of those conversations? Why hasn't that information or even a summary of that information been made public?”
Zapple went on to say if there is a vote, it should at least be delayed.
Commissioner Woody White responded.
“So these conspiracies out there that the deal is done and these signs that you're holding up about how there's some nefarious intent or even the completely false allegation from some people that the deal is in that there have been things done behind the scenes is an outrage and insulting to me. Because if there's any evidence of that, I suggest to my fellow commissioner and our state senator today who recklessly filed some complaint, should come forward and present any evidence of any backroom deals, conversations, emails, text messages, clandestine meetings, which is a word that has been used. Bring it forward, show it to the police…”
“All in favor of the motion, please say Aye. Aye. Aye. All opposed say nay. Nay. Nay. Ayes have it…”
County Manager Chris Coudriet.
“We will absolutely follow the process that John and I have talked about now really for 55 days. We're going to work to establish a partnership advisory group, lay out the expectations, time commitment for those individuals. Begin a process of briefing them in on what it is we're asking for. Ask the board to hold the public hearing on October the 15th.”
There will be several public hearings before any sale of the medical center is actually considered. Coudriet says the County is committed to complete transparency moving forward.
Vince Winkel, WHQR News.