NHRMC medical staff requests delay in county commission’s consideration of hospital sale

NHRMC medical staff requests delay in county commission’s consideration of hospital sale

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - The physician leadership at New Hanover Regional Medical Center has asked for more time to understand a possible sale of the hospital.

According to a letter sent to members of the New Hanover County Commission, a majority of the medical staff voted in favor of requesting a delay of the vote scheduled for Sept. 3 for a resolution which, if approved, would begin the process of exploring a sale of the hospital system.

The letter to county commission members is dated Aug. 13.

The group has requested a delay of up to 90 days.

Hospital staff would also like to sit down with the commission for “an exchange of ideas and questions” regarding a potential Request for Proposal process, the letter states.

The letter was sent by Dr. William Hope, president of the medical staff, and who last week told WECT he was encouraging open mindedness with the process.

Reached for comment Thursday, Dr. Hope said he felt the letter spoke for itself, but added, “Medical staff continues to work with the hospital to gather information and insight regarding this important process.”

County Manager Chris Coudriet released a statement through a county spokesperson:

“From a staff perspective, we will continue to proceed with the item on September 3, since it has already been noticed to the public in accordance with general statutes. The agenda item is not a decision to sell – it is to authorize staff to send out a request for proposals and begin the research and exploration process. Any and all decisions, even a decision to delay, have and remain the responsibility of the Board of Commissioners.”

While she said she hadn’t seen a copy yet and is out of town, Commission Vice-Chair Julia Olson-Boseman said she would be opposed to a delay of the Sept. 3 vote.

“We’ve been talking about this for 15 years," she said. "I don’t know how anyone can oppose it when we don’t know what it is yet.”

Similarly, Commissioner Woody White said he does not plan to vote in favor of a delay. “I cannot speak for the other commissioners, but I will not be voting to delay it,” he said.

Commissioner Pat Kusek shares the same feelings as some of her co-commissioners and is not in favor of delaying the Sept. 3 vote.

Commissioner Rob Zapple said he supports the staff’s request to delay the vote.

“I believe that Dr. Hope’s request, as President of the Medical Staff of NHRMC, is appropriate and reasonable. There is no urgency for the Commissioners to vote on a resolution of, ‘Intent to Sell’ on September 3rd. Dr. Hope and the hundreds of doctors and medical professionals that he represents are asking for more time to educate themselves and the members of our community as to what are the short- and long-term impacts on our community, if we should decide to sell the hospital. I support Dr. Hope’s request,” Zapple said in a statement Thursday.

""90 days - there is no urgency to move this thing forward. There simply isn’t. Again, we have a wonderful hospital doing great work. A 90 day period to help educate the public and physicians and everyone who is concerned here seems to me to be not only reasonable and is important," Zapple told WECT in an on camera interview.

Chairman Jonathan Barfield, while leaning toward supporting the request, has some reservations about the uncertainty a delay could cause.

“I think that it’s a prudent request and one that I’m inclined to support, however, it would lengthen the period of uncertainty for hospital employees. I’m not sure how that would affect recruiting talent,” Barfield said.

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