Partnership Advisory Group: Could have final recommendation on NHRMC future by mid-summer

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A decision on the future of New Hanover Regional Medical center is getting closer. On Monday, the Partnership Advisory Group gave an update to county commissioners after hearing presentations from its top three candidates.

The PAG previously narrowed its focus to three out of six original proposals, and received letters of intent from Atrium Health, Duke Health and Novant Health.

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As the group gets one step closer to to making a decision on a possible partnership or sale of the hospital though, some commissioners still have their doubts.

“That we’re rushing this process,” County Commissioners Rob Zapple said. “That there just seems to be full stream ahead no matter whether we’ve had COVID-19. We have civil unrest throughout our entire nation.”

The PAG has been at work for almost a year, trying to evaluate its options and decide on the future of NHRMC.



“My opinion is a year is a pretty long time with issues as important as this,” PAG Co-chair Spence Broadhurst said.

At Monday’s Board of Commissioners meeting, Broadhurst gave commissioners an update on where things stand in that process. The PAG heard presentations from Atrium, Duke and Novant last week.

“These three are just outstanding, but they have little different nuances,” Broadhurst said. “We’re evaluating that. You mentioned culture, and I’m glad you did because you can’t read culture on a piece of paper.”

Zapple asked how each of these three potential partners have handled the COVID-19 global pandemic, and whether they are still in the financial and cultural positions to take on a potential partnership.

Broadhurst says each of the health systems’ COVID response gave them a taste of their cultures. He says they spent time with each system to learn how they’re treating their staff members during this time, amongst many other things.

“To understand what makes the heartbeat so to speak,” Broadhurst said. “That was very informative and helpful for us. What we learned is number one, they are weathering through it very well.”

On the other hand, Commissioner Woody White has his concerns, but thinks the PAG is poised with three great options.

“Right now you could flip a three-sided coin and no question that this community would be better off with any one of these three,” White said.

The debate over those three potential partners found itself circling back to culture.

“I think that culture is probably the most important thing that we can evaluate because if we get that one wrong, everything else is going to unravel,” Broadhurst said.

Broadhurst says the group’s initial timeline has them making a final recommendation to commissioners around mid-summer, and say they’re still on that track.

Some commissioners hope to vote on a recommendation from the PAG as early as the next Board of Commissioners meeting on July 13, but no official date has been set yet.