Novant Health addresses commissioners’ concerns surrounding NHRMC

Leaders representing Novant Health spoke before New Hanover County commissioners Monday morning to put concerns surrounding the quality of care at NHRMC to rest
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 5:20 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Leaders representing Novant Health spoke before New Hanover County Commissioners Monday morning to put concerns surrounding the quality of care at NHRMC to rest.

One commissioner, in particular, wanted to hear from them after incidents over the summer that led to investigations into the emergency room and staffing. After WECT’s coverage of a state health report that found several areas of concern in the hospital, Commissioner Rob Zapple wanted to hear from hospital leaders on how the hospital was in the process of addressing those issues.

“All of our commissioners started hearing some really negative stories coming out of Novant, so I thought it’d be appropriate to bring in their leadership to address that,” said Zapple.

Novant told commissioners that issues they’ve run into aren’t specific to the hospital. Instead, they are nationwide healthcare system problems like the ongoing nursing shortage. It also says reports of nurses being let go and those left behind being overworked aren’t true. Instead, Novant says the shortage came after several travel nurses left at the same time. That shortage, Novant says, has since been addressed with the hiring of hundreds of nurses.

Chairperson Julia Olson-Boseman asked leaders to do more to address the ongoing staffing shortage, suggesting they get more involved with New Hanover County Schools.

“I wholeheartedly support the work of Novant in our community and their commitment to expand access to healthcare,” said Olson-Boseman in a statement. “I believe a big part of that also involves getting education into our schools early and often so that our kids have the opportunity to learn about a career path in healthcare.”

Olson-Boseman suggested a partnership between the hospital and Port City United, an organization already heavily involved in area schools, in an effort to reach kids to encourage interest in the healthcare field.

“We want to go meet those students in middle schools, elementary to get them interested,” said Shelbourn Stevens, president of Novant Health Coastal region. “We actually had an impromptu meeting with Port City United right after the commissioners’ meeting to get engaged and meet those folks and we’ll be bringing them into those conversations as well.”

“I look forward to seeing how Novant partners even more with our schools and with Port City United,” said Olson-Boseman. “We can do so much to encourage, serve and support our kids, and showing this career path and what is possible will be another great thing to add to our growing list of help and opportunities we’re providing as a county and together as a community.

Zapple pointed to another effort to establish a pipeline from schools to hospitals with the commissioners’ recent approval to purchase the Bank of America Building to help expand CFCC’s nursing program.

“Currently, Cape Fear Community College graduates 50 to 75 nurses per year,” said Zapple. “Jim Morton, the president, said with a larger facility, expansion of that and more staff brought on, that they could ramp up over several years a program that would see as many as 200 nurses that would be graduating from Cape Fear Community College.”

Representatives also told commissioners about successful efforts to expand healthcare access and the recent groundbreaking as things move forward with the Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic. It also boasted recent pay increases, bringing many staff members to “a healthy living wage” at $15/hour.

“I hope that they saw that we’re committed to taking care of not only the citizens of New Hanover County but southeast North Carolina,” said Stevens. “We’re committed to providing that high-level, high-quality care that this region has had and will continue to have going forth. Healthcare has been damaged all across the United States due to the pandemic and it’s going to take us years to overcome that.”

Leaders told commissioners the hospital is doing well and would be in worse shape had commissioners not approved the sale of NHRMC to Novant Health.

Commissioner Zapple was the only one to vote against the sale of the hospital. Now, he’d rather focus on supporting the hospital so it can be the hospital that New Hanover County needs.

“We need Novant to be the best darn hospital in southeast North Carolina,” said Zapple. “The past is the past. Whatever I can do to support them or to bring resources or whatever needs to be, I will be there leading the charge and holding the banner.”

After hearing the presentation, Commissioner Zapple says he’s confident in Novant’s ability to provide quality healthcare to New Hanover County and wants to help them do so in any way possible.

“It does nobody any good to dwell on the past,” said Zapple. “When there are mistakes or there are glitches in the road, it’s how you react to them and how you bring additional resources to it in this case, and you start planning for the future. That’s the message I heard today, and I thought it was good.”