WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) –The future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center has been a hot topic since county leaders announced back in July that it may consider selling the county-owned facility.
County commissioners voted back on September 16 to approve a resolution of “intent to sell” NHRMC. However, it seems the entire decision making process is going to take a lot longer than many realized.
On Tuesday night, a forum was held for community members to voice their opinion on the potential sale. Although several forums have taken place over the past few months, this was the first since commissioners voted last month.
“Once we lose control, what’s going to happen to the people that do not have insurance, want to come in there and get some healthcare?” one man asked. “‘Out the door you go buddy, you don’t have insurance.”
Several people echoed concerns that selling the hospital could mean higher costs and a lower quality of care.
“Why aren’t we having a referendum? Why isn’t this on the ballot? This should be not a question for a small group of people, but for everybody, because it services all of us,” said one woman.
“The citizens should have a right to vote on this. It is their hospital, not the county commissioners’,” another man said.
However not everyone agreed, including one woman who claimed to be a hospital employee.
“If we had more resources, we could really provide exceptional care, even more better than we’re already doing,” she said. “I really truly believe that and I have full faith in our leadership, and I’m not worried.”
This was the first public forum attended by the newly formed hospital Partnership Advisory Group or PAG, which will make a recommendation to county commissioners whether or not to sell. That group is made up of 20 people including hospital board of trustee members, physicians, and community members, like former Wilmington mayor Spence Broadhurst.
“I absolutely don’t have an opinion on the ultimate recommendation, I have lots of opinions on the process and how we get there,” Broadhurst said. “I think one of the real things our advisory group can do is kind of have a reboot of trust.”
Also on the PAG is NHRMC Board of Trustees member Barb Biehner. She says the goal is to do what’s best for the community.
“Intent to sell, maybe, maybe not,” Biehner said. “We don’t even know yet what we’re going to do. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, it’s probably a year to a year and a half worth of time to do.”
In regard to that supposed timeline, Wilmington City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to approve a resolution asking the county to delay the sale for a year. The only person that voted against it was councilman Charlie Rivenbark, who said he didn’t believe it was the city’s right to tell the county what to do.
Before the vote, Biehner and two other hospital board members spoke before council and agreed to have board members attend council meetings quarterly and provide updates.