New Hanover Co. manager, NHRMC CEO discuss potential hospital sale at Power Breakfast

New Hanover Co. manager, NHRMC CEO discuss potential hospital sale at Power Breakfast

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After 52 years as a public hospital, New Hanover Regional Medical Center could be headed for new ownership.

New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudreit and NHRMC President and CEO John Gizdic continued the discussion of the potential sale of the hospital Monday morning during the Greater Business Journal’s Power Breakfast.

On Sept. 3, the New Hanover County Commission will consider a resolution “to explore new ownership opportunities” of the hospital system in what officials call a “proactive step” to evaluate the future of healthcare in southeastern North Carolina.

However, the officials were quick to note that the sale is not a “done deal.”

“Selling is not the only option," Gizdic said. "The resolution while called a ‘resolution of intent to sell,’ that is the title of the state statute. That does not mean that is the only option. So exploring different structures going forward is what we’re talking about. One of which could include sale, but there are many many other types of structures and models that could be proposed and that we would want to understand.”

During the Power Breakfast, Gizdic told the audience there isn’t necessarily a problem and NHRMC is in good shape, but the future of healthcare is uncertain.

“The current model is broken," he said. "It is unaffordable and unsustainable for our country ... and so the model has to change.”

Coudriet said he and other leaders recognize that the discussion about possibly selling the hospital has created a lot of uncertainty within the community.

“Putting a question before the board has opened up a lot of passion, a lot of emotions, it’s added to uncertainty in an industry that already face is a lot of uncertainty, and that’s unfortunate, but I think it is absolutely necessary if we want to continue to take the long-term view for the hospital,” he said.

Coudriet said he and Gizdic are not “advocating” for the sale of the hospital. He said they are just putting it out there that in order to avoid using tax dollars and get scale to make healthcare affordable, options need to be explored.

Audience members were able to ask questions of both leaders. Several wanted to know more about what the effects of the potential sale would be, but Coudriet and Gizdic said it’s too early to really know.

What they could speak to was the process, and why they think moving forward on Sept. 3 is the right path.

“For me the question would be, if we don’t have a vote on September 3, and that’s for the County commission to the side, what happens over the course of the next 90 days? What is the intent, because September 3 is only the beginning of a very open, deliberate, transparent process," Coudriet said. "We cannot go forward unless the board says proceed.”

Whether the board decides to move forward or not, Gizdic said the industry is changing — and the hospital system is going to ultimately have to change as well.

“We want to preserve what we have," he said. "We have a very good thing in new Hanover Regional Medical Center, in this medical community, and in health care in our region. We want that to continue. I want that to continue. Believe me, if I could wave a magic wand and nothing would ever change and we could be in a bubble here in south eastern North Carolina forever, that would be fantastic, but that is unfortunately not the case.”

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