PAG narrows partnership, sale options of NHRMC to 3 proposals

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The partnership advisory group, responsible for exploring a possible partnership or sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, has narrowed the list of proposals from six to three.

The group voted to move forward with Atrium Health, Duke Health and Novant Health.

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This doesn’t mean the other offers are off the table, but the PAG is focusing their efforts on those three.

“We had 21, the entire advisory group was here tonight,” said PAG co-chair Spence Broadhurst. “We all voted unanimously for these three, so that shows how strong these three opportunities are.”

Broadhurst and fellow co-chair Barb Biehner say they selected three out of six proposals to explore further based on 18 criteria in the hospital’s strategic plan.

“They included everything from health equity, to staffing, to engaging independent providers, to capital, to partnerships, financial performance, all the different pieces we identified before,” Biehner said.

Atrium is offering a 40-year lease and $3.1 billion investment.

Duke is offering a purchase of NHRMC with at least $1.9 billion in capital investments.

Novant is offering a partnership with $2 billion upfront and $3.1 billion in capital investments.

PAG leaders say their decision is about more than just money.

“We’re going to keep focusing on the core considerations that we know we are most concerned about,” Biehner said. “We’re going to integrate that in with the site visits.”

Those sites visits, initially planned as true visits, will now be done virtually due to the coronavirus. Broadhurst doesn’t believe that has to be a negative thing.

“We’ll give up the in-person around-the-table conversation eye-to-eye conversation, but by making it virtual I think more of the advisory group will be able to participate,” he said.

Broadhurst says they will continue to weigh the proposals against the hospital remaining independent or restructuring to allow for more diverse investments.

“Our next steps are to gather all that information, and we feel very confident that we’ll be able to make a recommendation in the next six to eight weeks,” he said.

The PAG will make their recommendation to county commissioners who will ultimately make the final decision about the future of the hospital. If the PAG sticks to 6-8 week timeline, the public could have an answer about the fate of NHRMC in July, one year after the process began.

Read the proposals here:

Atrium Health

Duke Health

Novant Health

Save Our Hospital President Gene Merritt released this statement in reponse to last night’s decision:

“We are not surprised at the actions of the PAG last night in their choices. We are disappointed that the UNC Health option was not included. We are afraid we will lose the UNC relationship. All of the proposals state that the Covid-19 virus will change health care and the value of their businesses-so, why the rush at this time? Why not delay until the economy stabilizes? All three proposals call for a local board, but with limited authority. All major decisions will be made by the parent company (not in Wilmington). In the Atrium proposal, Atrium picks nine local board members. Only Atrium commits to keeping the staff and that is only for 12 months. Novant’s corporate staff would decide capital needs with NHRMC “active in the process.” Realistic “local control” will not exist in any of the three proposals. This is the most important issue that has ever been considered in this county during our lifetime. We only hope the decision, once it is made, does not go down in history as the most foolish decision that was ever made.”