PAG discusses options for NHRMC beyond selling hospital

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Partnership Advisory Group responsible for exploring the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center met again Thursday night, this time expanding the discussion beyond just selling the hospital.

At a meeting two weeks ago, the PAG sent out requests for proposal to 28 potential buyers and partners.

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18 of those have expressed interest and five have declined, including the Mayo Clinic and Haven, the company partially owned by Amazon.

At Thursday’s meeting, the group discussed the key things they want to see in those proposals and also explored alternatives to keep the hospital independent.

“The deal is not done,” says PAG Co-Chair Barb Biehner. “These 21 people would not be wasting their time.”

Biehner once again defended the process the PAG has been going through for months now.

“I’m sorry the whole thing starts with something called an intent to sell,” she says. “Because yes, they had to execute that document, but the real purpose is to look at what’s the right structure going forward.”

As many in the community rally behind an organization called Save Our Hospital, opposing any potential sale, Biehner says saving the hospital is exactly what the PAG is trying to do.

“The real key is not a sale, but what are the key things that New Hanover Regional needs to have available to it to move forward and be successful,” Biehner says.

One of those key things is money. With the current county-owned structure, Biehner says that money just isn’t there.

“To meet the needs of the patients we serve, we’ve got to go into the surrounding counties,” she says. “So what we were able to do is learn how other governing structures are set up that could allow us to do that moving forward.”

Some options include establishing a parent company over the hospital, establishing NHRMC as a hospital authority, or converting it from a county-owned system to a healthcare non-profit.

The PAG will then have to weigh these different options against the proposals they receive from potential partners or buyers.

“Not every one of those models, cause we saw a lot of them, will give us access to capital. So does that narrow some of them down because no matter what we’re going to have to have access,” Biehner says.

The group also welcomed a new member at Thursday’s meeting, after Chuck Kays stepped down for personal reasons. The Physicians Advisory Council selected Rob Shakar, who has been practicing in Wilmington for 22 years and is co-chair of the Operating Room Executive Committee at NHRMC.

Click here to view the presentation from Thursday’s meeting.