County Commissioners to vote on ‘Resolution of Intent to Sell’ NHRMC on Monday

Updated: Sep. 13, 2019 at 4:04 AM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A meeting of the New Hanover County Commissioners originally scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3, but was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian, is now happening Monday.

On the agenda is a controversial vote to explore the possibility of selling New Hanover Regional Medical Center has been postponed. The county manager’s office outlines the proposed “Resolution of Intent to Sell.”

That resolution reads, in part: “the Board of Commissioners hereby declares its intent to sell NHRMC’s facilities and assets, or to enter into any other affiliation arrangement consistent with NHRMC’s lawful purpose, if and only if the Board of Commissioners deems such arrangement to be appropriate in its sole discretion after receipt and review of proposals from potential acquiring systems and consideration of community input at public hearings in this matter. Any such arrangement would only be approved if the Board of Commissioners deems it to be in the best interests of the community, compliant with the requirements of North Carolina law, and both supportive and promotive of NHRMC’s mission;" [emphasis from original document].

The county first announced on July 23 it will consider moving forward with “exploring” a sale of the hospital, and in the weeks since, community membersand elected officialshave not been shy about their opinions.

“The community input we have received from citizens has emphasized the importance of this being thoughtful, open, and slower paced,” the agenda item reads. “Citizens need to trust and understand this process, and — if the Board of Commissioners decides to move forward — it is staff’ s recommendation that this proceeds in a very deliberate, fact -based manner that complies with state statute and ensures additional, valuable community input.”

Now, the actual item the county commission will vote on paints a more specific picture of what a vote in the affirmative would do, and what the potential Request for Proposal (RFP) process would look like.

If the commission elects to move forward, the first item of business will be to establish a Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) to execute the RFP process.

County Manager Chris Coudriet said at a business breakfast Monday he does not know who would be selected to serve on the PAG, but according to the agenda would be made up of county, hospital and local leadership “reflective of our community’s diversity of individuals and interests.”

Then, the county manager suggests holding no fewer than three public meetings. The first would be to determine what the RFP would entail, the second would be to present and discuss the responses to the RFP, and the third would be to propose and receive feedback on the final contract.

Additionally, the PAG meetings — of which the resolution suggests at least two before the RFP is released — would be public and subject to North Carolina open meetings law, other than any legal closed sessions to discuss competitive business information.

“This process should take many months, and would inform whether Commissioners should continue to operate NHRMC as an independent health care provider, pursue a new ownership structure with a larger healthcare system, or engage in a different structure in order to enhance and advance healthcare in our community," the agenda item reads.

Details of the RFP would be worked out by the PAG after the community meetings, but the resolution as it stands gives a glimpse at what would happen after it is finalized.

The county would be required to send the RFP to at least five potential buyers or interested parties.

Once responses are received, the PAG will evaluate the initial responses and conduct interviews of the respondents, giving the county commission regular updates.

The language of the resolution is one that the RFP process is non-binding — meaning if the PAG returns responses to the county commission that commissioners find objectionable, there is no commitment to continue the process.

“Any decision should only be made if it is in the community’s and NHRMC’s best interest,” the agenda description reads.

The New Hanover County Commissioner’s meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday, September 16.

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