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A Letter of Thanks to the Partnership Advisory Group

From John Gizdic, New Hanover Regional Medical Center President and CEO

It’s not easy to put the fate of an organization you lead in the hands of others, particularly when you care deeply about all those who depend on it for their lives and livelihoods.

So, when we decided last year to form the Partnership Advisory Group to evaluate the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, it was, for me, a nervous leap of faith.

We had to trust that this group of individuals, with varied backgrounds and experiences, would come to the process with open minds, ready to learn, ask hard questions, and take a stand for what they believe in.

I clearly remember the Partnership Advisory Group’s first meeting last October. Each member spoke to why they were there. Their commitment to the community was obvious. They acknowledged the significance of the decision before them and made it clear they would not shirk from doing what is right.

The meetings of the Partnership Advisory Group got underway with the extremely skilled leadership of the elected co-chairs, Barb Biehner and Spence Broadhurst, and the vice co-chairs, Bill Cameron and Dr. Joseph Pino.

They guided the group through dense discussions of healthcare policy, industry trends, finance, and market dynamics. The group learned about NHRMC’s strategic plan, including what has been accomplished and where NHRMC struggles to meet the needs of the growing region.

They pushed. They questioned. They challenged. They were relentless in their pursuit of the knowledge they needed to make a recommendation.

At times, it was exhausting. But it was also inspiring.

They dedicated hundreds of hours to the evaluation, in meetings and outside them. Not only did they do this without compensation, they did it knowing their personal reputations were at stake. They knew the public was divided and their positions would be judged, often harshly. Yet, they persevered with a singular focus on making the right choice.

Then, they did what seemed impossible: they came to a unanimous decision. After careful evaluation of what it would mean for NHRMC to remain county owned versus what it could do with a partner, they each agreed a sale to a strong system with a shared mission and culture could do more for our region than any other option.

They agreed Novant Health’s proposal, bolstered by an expanded relationship with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine, would be the best choice for southeastern North Carolina. Each member of the Partnership Advisory Group declared Novant Health their first choice.

Though the charter didn’t call on them to be public advocates for their decision, the Partnership Advisory Group volunteered to take on that extra role. Once their decision was made, they wanted everyone to understand it. They have participated in countless interviews and forums, fielding a wide range of questions and speaking passionately about how they came to the decision they did.

The Partnership Advisory Group has rightly earned the respect and trust of the community. They boldly recommended a path that few supported when they began their work. They didn’t do it quietly and then go back to their lives, hoping for the best. They stepped up and helped the community understand the issues at stake and see the amazing possibilities ahead of us.

Since their decision, we have seen support for the partnership grow. A recently released survey showed 72% of respondents believe it will have a positive impact on the community.

This is due, in no small part, to the work of a group that came together a year ago to openly and thoughtfully evaluate one of our community’s most significant decisions.

I hope they will continue to stay involved. We need more people like them: Courageous. Passionate. Committed.

We owe them a debt of gratitude. Please join me in thanking them for their tremendous service to our community and the generations that will come after us.