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Partnership Advisory Group Talks Partnership Options and Independence at Tenth Meeting

In its last meeting before partnership proposals are received, the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Partnership Advisory Group discussed the types of proposals that might come in and how different forms of partnerships and restructuring could be combined to help NHRMC meet the growing healthcare needs of the region.

The group saw many ways partnerships could bring resources while allowing NHRMC to stay locally owned and controlled. This led to a robust conversation about what it means to be independent.

“We’re not independent now, if the definition is that you can do everything on your own,” said Cedric Dickerson, referencing the partnerships NHRMC has in place with organizations such as UNC Health for medical education, Atrium Health for purchasing and management of the NHRMC Physician Group, and FirstHealth for management of a Medicare Advantage product.

“I think about independence from the perspective of control and the ability to have majority control in the decision making that I see as most important,” said Dr. Joseph Pino.  “Whether it’s staffing or the development of a service line that is in acute need in this region, having that ability to make those decisions where appropriate seems to be where the independence lies.”

“I like the idea that the decision makers have to live with the consequences of their decisions,” said Dr. Michael Papagikos. “Whoever sets up the staffing levels in the emergency department – I want that to be the emergency department they have to go to.”

Speaking to a chart that outlines how different types of partnerships would impact local control, legal advisor Joe Kahn emphasized how there are different tiers of control to consider. “It’s not a choice of giving up independence or remaining status quo,” he said. “There’s a whole lot in between.”

Click the chart below for a full size versionNHRMC Partnership Options

Group Looks Toward Next Phase: Evaluation

The citizen-led Partnership Advisory Group has held ten meetings since forming five months ago. The 21 members have spent more than 20 hours in meetings, as well as many additional hours, reviewing information that will help them evaluate the best way to secure high quality healthcare for area residents for many years to come.  They have studied demographic and industry trends, research on various forms of partnerships and their impacts, and how NHRMC’s strategic plan provides a framework to adapt and provide the best possible care.

NHRMC’s strategic plan provided an outline for developing the request for proposals (RFP) approved by the Advisory Group at their January 9 meeting. Top goals include:

  • Improving access to care and wellness
  • Advancing the value of care
  • Achieving health equity
  • Engaging staff
  • Partnering with providers
  • Driving quality of care throughout the continuum
  • Improving the level and scope of care
  • Investing to ensure long-term financial security
  • Strategic positioning
  • Effective governance

The Advisory Group will review how each proposal and restructuring model will help advance their goals. Some proposals and models will impact individual goals more than others. The Partnership Advisory Group will be able to recommend the proposals, level of support, and governance they feel is best for NHRMC and the community.

At their meeting Thursday, the group discussed a format for reviewing the proposals and the key elements they’ll be looking for when they get the responses. This high-level snapshot could provide a way to quickly see which proposals address each goal.

When the responses to the RFP come back on March 16, the Advisory Group will have two weeks to review them and ask clarifying questions. Once the proposals are finalized, they will be posted to the website for public review. Information that meets legal requirements for protection will not be visible, but the public will have access to hundreds of pages of proposal responses to read and review.

To conduct their initial review before public release of the documents, the Advisory Group will need to meet in closed session March 19 and 26.

“While our goal is to do as much of the evaluation and discussion of the proposals in open session as possible, there will be times when we need to discuss competitive healthcare information,” said Spence Broadhurst, co-chair of the Advisory Group. “We’ll have to go into closed session for those discussions.”

Closed session topics could include information on an organization’s plans for growth that, if shared, could allow their competitors to use that information to their advantage and the organization’s detriment.

Members of the Advisory Group also discussed how they’ll need to do some of their evaluation in closed session to speak freely and maintain negotiating strength.

“Once you’ve said you love a proposal, you have lost your ability to negotiate a good deal,” said Brian Eckel.

Finding the right balance between effective discussion of sensitive information and sharing information with the public will be an ongoing consideration as the Advisory Group moves forward with the open process.

Advisory Group leaders urged the public to stay informed and provide their feedback. The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the proposals Monday, April 13 at 6 p.m. at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse, 24 North 3rd Street, Room 301.

Partnership Advisory Group members also encourage area residents to use an email established at the start of the process to provide ongoing opportunities for comments. That address is

Ongoing updates, presentations, and meeting minutes can be found online at