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Partnership Advisory Group Votes to Focus Evaluation on Three Potential Partners for NHRMC

The Partnership Advisory Group exploring the best way to improve the region’s access to high-quality healthcare has endorsed further evaluation of partnership proposals for New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC).

At its meeting on May 7, the Partnership Advisory Group unanimously voted to recommend focusing the evaluation on proposals from (in alphabetical order) Atrium Health, Duke Health, and Novant Health, three not-for-profit health systems based in North Carolina. While the group is recommending the three partners for further due diligence, no proposed partner will be eliminated, pending additional public input and further evaluation.

The recommendation will go to the NHRMC Board of Trustees at a special called meeting May 11 and the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners at its regularly-scheduled meeting on May 18 at 9 a.m. Those boards could endorse the recommendation and/or offer further guidance.

The citizen-led Advisory Group is a committee formed by the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners and the NHRMC Board of Trustees to bring different viewpoints to the discussion. It is charged with recommending whether a new partnership or ownership structure for the healthcare system is in the community’s best interest.

The group has had twelve meetings since October. Members have studied healthcare and regional trends and the challenges NHRMC faces in funding the services needed to keep pace with the rapidly growing population in southeastern North Carolina. From those discussions, the group developed a request for proposals, which was issued in January. Six organizations responded by the March 16 deadline, and each of their proposals can be viewed here.

The vote to focus on three organizations came after the Partnership Advisory Group weighed all six proposals based on ten sets of goals and objectives.

“The proposals from Atrium, Duke and Novant stood out for the depth of their commitment to helping NHRMC serve this community,” said Spence Broadhurst, co-chair of the Partnership Advisory Group. “They offered a level of support that could be transformative, making NHRMC and this region an even stronger destination for high-quality, affordable medical care that is accessible for everyone.”

In response to a Request for Proposals, each potential partner answered hundreds of questions, detailing their experiences and plans for NHRMC and the region.

“We will only recommend partnering with an organization whose plans and culture align with who we are and what we value,” said Barb Biehner, co-chair of the Partnership Advisory Group and member of the NHRMC Board of Trustees. “NHRMC is deeply committed to the people of this area and the vision of creating a thriving community. We want to ensure that local commitment remains at the forefront of NHRMC’s mission.”

The partnership models proposed by the three organizations include both full and partial integrations, each with different levels of services and financial commitments to NHRMC and New Hanover County.

If the boards agree with the recommended partner focus, members of the Partnership Advisory Group and its support team will work through additional questions, talk with each organization, and clarify how each proposed partnership would impact NHRMC patients, staff, providers and the community.

Following that process, the Partnership Advisory Group will recommend one partnership or combination of partnerships to the NHRMC Board of Trustees and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.

Public engagement continues to be an important part of the process. The proposals and answers to follow-up questions are available online at www.nhrmcfuture.org, along with presentations, minutes and audio recordings from the Advisory Group’s meetings. Community members can share their opinions with the Partnership Advisory Group by emailing PAGcomments@nhcgov.com.

New Hanover County expects to hold two public hearings before any final decision is made. The first hearing scheduled in April was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. The timing and format are under review, dependent on the virus and the social distancing requirements in place. Details will be announced in the coming weeks.

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