WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As the New Hanover County Commission prepares to take up the issue of what comes next for New Hanover Regional Medical Center, members of the group that charted out a possible path forward are explaining themselves.
On Wednesday, the Partnership Advisory Group held a virtual question and answers session with the public. Community members were able to pose questions to the group through the county’s Facebook page.
Novant’s response to the request for proposals and the resolution passed by the NHRMC Board of Trustees Tuesday night give an early glimpse into what a deal truly looks like, but PAG Co-Chairs Barb Biehner and Spence Broadhurst, along with County Manager Chris Coudriet, said some of the details won’t be worked out until after a letter of intent is signed.
Those include things such as how Novant plans to handle existing employees — several questions had to do with if employees’ jobs are secure.
Biehner said they can’t guarantee any jobs, as North Carolina is a work at will state, but said Novant has not indicated they plan to reduce staff, and there are indications they may be adding positions in some areas.
Others wanted to know about the potential for new health care opportunities, such as a pediatric oncology clinic or specialized geriatric care centers.
Those too, Biehner and Broadhurst explained, would be worked out at a later date, but the physicians in the group said some research into making those things possible is already underway, and would be more easily achieved with Novant on board.
Overall, what many of those submitting questions wanted to know was why the PAG believes moving toward a deal with Novant is the right path, and if members truly feel they thoroughly investigated the options of remaining the same or restructuring from within.
Bill Cameron said he and others in the group came into the discussion skeptical at best, but now stand behind a deal with Novant.
“I think we bent over backwards, trying to find a way to justify come to a not-selling decision,” he said, “and the facts just simply overwhelmed that possibility, and it showed us so clearly the possibilities of what we have in the future about partnering with Novant vastly improve our community health, that staying as we are truly just was not a viable consideration.”
On Monday, the county commission will vote on whether or not to enter into a letter of intent with Novant Health. If that goes through, leaders explained the next steps would be to begin negotiating the terms of the deal, which could take a couple months.
The commission meets Monday, July 13 at 4 p.m. in room 301 of the historic courthouse in downtown Wilmington.