Partnership Advisory Group Begins Shaping Goals and Objectives for NHRMC Partnership Exploration

Members of the Partnership Advisory Group exploring opportunities for New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) focused on the goals for the system at their third meeting Wednesday, November 20.

The goals and objectives approved by the 21-member group of community representatives will become part of a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued by New Hanover County Commissioners. The RFP will ask the responding organizations how they can help NHRMC achieve the stated goals for improving healthcare in this region. They could provide proposals for everything from a limited partnership around an individual service to a full-scale merger.

“We are focused on what they can do for us,” said John Gizdic, NHRMC President and CEO. “Not a particular model.”

The ten goals and objectives being discussed by the Partnership Advisory Group tie directly to NHRMC’s strategic plan. At Wednesday night’s meeting, they covered the first five, including:

  • Improving Access to Care and Wellness – Adding to the number and range of care options in the region so everyone can get more timely and convenient care to better manage their health
  • Advancing the Value of Care – Improving the quality of care while lowering the cost of it through systems to improve efficiency, safety, and coordination across care providers
  • Achieving Health Equity – Eliminating the demographic disparities in healthcare outcomes by targeting the root causes of poor health and partnering with others in the community to develop and support innovative programs
  • Engaging Staff – Ensuring that the culture of the organization is continued and strengthened, with a focus on developing and engaging staff and supporting them with job security, competitive pay and excellent benefits
  • Partnering with Providers – Supporting the growth of the medical staff through recruitment, medical education, employed and affiliated provider engagement initiatives, and clinical research

Advisory Group members discussed what NHRMC has been able to do on its own around these goals and where there could be new opportunities. Mary Rudyk, MD spoke of the need for more geriatricians to serve the growing aging community and Sandra Hall, MD added that more needs to be done to reach women who don’t seek out medical care. Joe Pino, MD expressed a desire to continue to support medical education and residency programs.

Members of the group also expressed some unease about potential changes in how NHRMC already operates.

“There’s a palpable concern among physicians that another system would not respect independent physicians the way the current administration does,” said Michael Papagikos, MD, referring to how some other systems treat independent physician groups as competitors to their own employed practices.

Evelyn Bryant asked about growing the commitment to the development of community health workers and Virginia Adams, RN advocated for additional focus on nurses and nurse recruitment.

David Burik, the consultant from Navigant supporting the discussion, said the group should look carefully at each organization’s track record and not just what they say they’re going to do.  Gizdic added that if the group thinks they may recommend a partnership, they should make visiting that organization part of their due diligence to get a sense of the culture and reputation in the community. “Talk to the Uber driver, the staff, physicians, everyone you come in contact with,” urged Gizdic.

Gizdic said he’ll be especially focused on employees. “One of the most important aspects of this discussion, from my perspective, is protecting staff,” said Gizdic. “They are what make everything else possible. The culture we have is phenomenal and we would want to make sure any partner we would consider is a cultural fit.”

Robust discussion around the first five sets of goals and objectives for the Partnership Advisory Group to review filled the meeting time, so the next five will be discussed at the meeting scheduled for December 5.

At a media briefing before the Partnership Advisory Group meeting, the chairs were asked their impressions of the progress so far and whether they are leaning in any particular direction.

“I am much more informed and have a better understanding of the challenges than I was a month ago,” said Spence Broadhurst. “But it has not led me to a solution yet.”

Bill Cameron echoed the sentiment and spoke to the community sentiment. “Before I began this, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I am no closer to knowing what direction we should take, but the first two sessions have given me a clearer understanding of the headwinds and what we have to deal with.”

Barb Biehner said as a member of the NHRMC Board of Trustees with professional experience in health care she has known what is coming and believes we’ll need to do something but has not formed an opinion on what that change should look like.

Each pledged to keep an open mind and explore the options thoroughly.

“We are doing this because it matters,” asserted Broadhurst. “And since it matters, we’re going to do it the right way.”

To see the presentation shared at the third meeting, click here.

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