WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As community members get their first chance to make sure their voices are heard on the potential sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, hundreds packed a room in the Northeast Library.
Several had concerns about losing local control of the county-owned facility, which is the largest employer in the region with 7,000 doctors, nurses, medical professionals and staffers.
It was the first of two public meetings ahead of a Sept. 3 vote on the “intent to sell” the hospital. That vote moves the process forward.
All five county commissioners were in attendance.
The meeting room at the library was set up for 200 people. All the seats were full and many were forced to stand around the side of the room.
A majority of the audience criticized the potential sale of the hospital, with passionate statements about the reasons why the hospital should not be put up for sale. One man categorized it as “overwhelmingly negative.”
Only a handful of audience members supported moving forward with a request for proposals, including Natalie English, who heads the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and Jack Barto, the former CEO of the hospital.
Barto said he would prefer the hospital negotiate this from a “position of strength.” He said he is opposed to the sale of the hospital to an investor owned group. He went on to say healthcare should be delivered locally and urged county commissioners to request proposals in order to base a potential sale on facts.
“I’m really interested in how we take care of patients and patients alone,” said one doctor who attended the meeting. “Please don’t do this.”
“I heard an almost an unanimous no that we don’t want to consider selling the hospital,” said county resident Matt Coyle.
The crowd also heard from County Manager Chris Coudriet and NHRMC CEO John Gizdic.
“We are not advocating for the sale,” Coudriet said. “We don’t know what the right model is with the uncertainty out there we believe asking the question is the right way to proceed. That is not a conclusion we reached. That is not the opinion of the county commission.”
The second meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Senior Resource Center, 2222 South College Road.