NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - With the countdown clock started on Request for Proposals (RFP), the Partnership Advisory Group looking at the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center went back into the weeds Thursday night.
The group met for its first meeting since releasing the nearly 50-page document, and where the first few months of meetings were spent figuring out what questions to ask, the next four or so will focus on how to evaluate the answers.
Responses to the RFP are due March 16 at 5 p.m., though PAG leadership said it may be a couple weeks after the deadline before the proposals are released to the public due to the need to redact proprietary information.
In the meantime, PAG members are going deeper into how to evaluate those proposals, and what it would look like for NHRMC to remain independent.
“We still have a lot left to talk about,” said PAG Co-Chair Barb Biehner. “We are really looking at how we want to start to pick those key elements and how important they are and how we prioritize them.”
Thursday night’s meeting covered many of the topics PAG members have been familiarized with already, but in more detail.
Governance — both how the hospital is currently structured organizationally, and how other healthcare systems are set up — was the largest topic of conversation.
Consultants from Navigant described what is seen in the industry, where attorneys for the county and hospital went deeper into the existing structure, and the challenges they say it presents.
In particular, remaining under the same governance model presents issues with capital, because the hospital is owned by the county and there are legal limits on both the acquisition and use of capital.
For example, Biehner explained, the hospital serves thousands of people who live and work outside of New Hanover County, but NHRMC is unable to invest in properties outside the county limits.
Gizdic and County Manager Chris Coudriet noted there are borrowing concerns as well, because the hospital has a limited number of assets it can use as collateral.
PAG members were also presented with the main subsets of options that will likely appear in some of the RFP responses, ranging from simple services agreements to an out-right sale.
In the coming meetings, Navigant consultants explained, the pros-and-cons of the various options will be further explored.
Additionally, the upcoming meetings promise to include discussions over the key challenges and gaps NHRMC is facing, things Gizdic and Biehner said they hope the community is starting to better understand.
“I think we are all getting to the point where we are agreeing that staying as a county owned, county lead type of entity, with all the strategic nuances of healthcare, is really difficult,” Biehner said of the PAG members. “because it holds us back from having the access any expertise that we need. So becoming independent in some way is really a great opportunity for us, it’s just how do you do that the most successfully.”
The next PAG meeting will take place on Thursday, Feb. 6.