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NHRMC Partnership Proposals Released for Public Review

Details of how six organizations propose partnering with New Hanover Regional Medical Center to advance care in the region are now available online at www.nhrmcfuture.org.

Atrium Health, Duke Health, HCA Healthcare, Healthspan/Bon Secours Mercy Health, Novant Health and UNC Health responded to a Request for Proposals issued January 13. Each organization answered hundreds of questions on how they would improve local access to high quality, affordable care, achieve health equity, support employees and providers, position NHRMC for the future, provide financial stability, and provide for a level of local control of decisions important to the region.

“Making these proposals public is an important step in helping the community understand the scope of what is being considered,” said Barb Biehner, a member of the NHRMC Board of Trustees and co-chair of the Partnership Advisory Group evaluating the proposals. “The responses detail different models, visions for NHRMC, and levels of commitment to expanding the care available here. We are fortunate to have some strong options to investigate further.”

A number of the proposals are wide in scope, offering programs and investments to advance every part of NHRMC’s strategic plan.

The organizations describe how they would support and grow the NHRMC staff with job stability, equitable pay and benefits and opportunities to advance. They also speak of preserving the relationships NHRMC has with independent and employed providers and working to recruit more physicians and advanced care providers to the region.

“Our desire to preserve and support every part of our system as well as the relationships we have established in the community and with other providers, was evident throughout the request for proposals,” said John Gizdic, NHRMC President and CEO. “How each respondent answered questions about these priorities will be critical to our evaluation.”

The proposals offer a range of possible structural models, including academic partnerships, joint ventures, and full integrations.

“The proposals reflect a deep respect for NHRMC’s position as a healthcare community leader and the potential for growing the scope and depth of services available here,” said Spence Broadhurst, co-chair of the Partnership Advisory Group. “The support of a larger system and the resources it could bring to our area could be transformative and help us get to a more secure future.”

The citizen-led Partnership Advisory Group charged with evaluating options for NHRMC’s future received the proposals on March 16, then paused their formal meeting schedule and the release of proposals as the community focused on preparing for COVID-19.

While three full meetings of the group were canceled, members divided into smaller teams to review responses in the context of the ten goals and objectives identified by the Partnership Advisory Group, and to determine if more information was needed on any of the topics. As part of this process, each potential partner was asked how they were responding to COVID-19 and whether the pandemic would impact their proposals.

“This is one of the biggest healthcare challenges of our time,” said Gizdic. “How each organization steps up to support their teams, the communities they serve, and their extended network of partners is a critical consideration.”

COVID-19 has tested all healthcare systems as they have had to adapt to changing circumstances, increased infection risks, uncertain patient volumes and timing, and worldwide supply shortages. Meeting the clinical challenges has also come at substantial financial cost. Health systems have spent more on equipment and supplies while simultaneously cancelling profitable procedures and appointments to focus resources and limit potential spread.

Each respondent detailed how their systems have been able to deploy people, technology and financial resources to respond to the pandemic and affirmed their commitment to pursuing a partnership with NHRMC. Those responses can be read on the nhrmcfuture.org website with the proposals.

The Partnership Advisory Group is scheduled to meet again on May 7 at 5:30 p.m., and details for the public to listen to the open session portions of the meeting will be shared in the coming days.

“The advisory group has been extremely dedicated to this process and, over the past few weeks, they have been reading each proposal, asking important questions, and evaluating what each respondent can bring to our community for the long term,” said New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet. “The next step for the group is to determine whether to narrow and focus their evaluation on two or three potential partners. They’ll then take that recommendation to the NHRMC Board of Trustees and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners for direction on the path forward. The public is encouraged to share feedback on the proposals through the PAG email, and we will hold a public hearing as soon as possible to ensure the community can continue to share input.”

A public hearing has not been scheduled yet, because of the limitations on gatherings due to COVID-19, but once a hearing date and details are determined it will be announced publicly. A hearing will be held before any final vote of the Board of Commissioners.

The public is invited to share their comments about the proposals at any time by emailing Advisory Group members at PAGcomments@nhcgov.com. The proposals, summaries, and ongoing updates can be found at www.nhrmcfuture.org.