Former CEO of NHRMC says hospital would have failed without sale to Novant Health

Novant was forced to begin hiring travel nurses again, but they still argue that NHRMC is better off after the sale.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Executives at Novant Health say despite its recent issues, New Hanover Regional Medical Center is coping well with the shortage of nurses plaguing the nation.

On February 1, 2021, New Hanover County closed on its sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health. In the year and a half since then, the hospital has seen its share of issues ranging from a death in the ER to investigators threatening the hospital’s Medicare contract.

“The situation wasn’t ideal in our emergency department this summer. We own that,” said John Gizdic, the former CEO of NHRMC and current executive vice president for Novant Health. “I know you’ve heard from our operational leaders about specific initiatives they have underway to make progress on adding nurses despite the national nursing shortage.”

Several studies say North Carolina is one of the states most impacted by the labor shortage in terms of nursing. One study says to expect 10,000 open nursing jobs in North Carolina in the next 10 years. Despite that grim forecast, Novant Health NHRMC was able to hire hundreds of nurses in recent months — something leaders say wouldn’t have been possible had the county not sold the hospital to Novant in 2020.

Novant Health has recently added hundreds of nurses to its staff with many of those being travel nurses, whose salaries usually cost more than your typical R.N.

“That has, you know, mixed results,” said New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple. “First off, it’s unbelievably expensive for Novant to do this and I would say it’s really not sustainable.”

Gizdic agrees, saying: “We do have to rely on that contract labor more than we have historically to ensure we have the resources needed to care for our community, but at the same time, that is three to four times what we pay a normal nurse or a staff nurse that works in the organization and ultimately, that is not sustainable for the long term. It’s not sustainable financially [or] for the culture of the organization.”

Commissioner Rob Zapple was the only person on the board to vote against selling NHRMC. He knows the hospital is facing challenges but says county leaders are looking for solutions, too.

“How do we get a pipeline of nurses, you know, coming out of here locally?” asked Zapple “You know, the commissioners have a lever in their hand with Cape Fear Community College, and we have an excellent nursing program there.”

Novant says that NHRMC is doing fine in terms of staffing despite the national labor shortage. Gizdic says that’s thanks to Novant Health’s resources.

“We’re able to work with the Novant Health team to recruit nurses from across the country and really be aggressive with those resources and go out there and be able to tell our story and attract and retain nurses,” said Gizdic.

The hope is the troublesome headlines from earlier this summer — won’t return down the road.