Public weighs in on final offers for sale, partnership of NHRMC

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After the Partnership Advisory Group expressed an interest to partner or sell New Hanover Regional Medical Center last week, the public got a chance to voice comments and concerns about proposals Monday night.

Opinions seemed to be split pretty evenly over whether the county should sell the hospital to an outside organization or remain independent.

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“I think that this could be one of the worst mistakes this county has ever made, and I’d ask you to reconsider it,” said Alex Hall of Save Our Hospital, Inc.

Currently, the top three options chosen by the PAG are Atrium Health, Duke Health, and Novant Health. However, some, such as Save Our Hospital Inc. Founder Gene Merritt, questioned the county’s intentions.

“Quit talking to us about you want to partner the hospital,” Merritt said. “It is very clear you want to sell it to the highest bidder.”

Others, including members of the PAG, spoke in favor of a partnership or sale, referring to the need for more resources.

“When I found out they were at 90 percent capacity and sometimes people were on beds waiting to be seen in the hallways, I thought ‘well we’ve got a great hospital, but it’s only great if you can get in,'” said PAG member Robert Campbell.

Some cited changes in the healthcare system that could put the county at financial risk if the hospital remained independent.

“Insurance companies have passed a lot of responsibility back to the providers to take on that financial risk,” said Steve DeBiasi of OrthoWilmington.

Those on the other side of the issue raised concerns about higher prices and employment.

“I sat through the last two hours of the PAG meeting, and they all got on board with all the wonderful things that this would bring, not one time was the word cost mentioned,” said one man with concerns about a possible sale.

“One of the pursuers has said people will have their jobs for one year,” said Wilmington resident Murray Sherman. “What does that mean? It means that people go away.”

Some physicians, who currently have partnerships with Atrium Health, spoke about their experience with the organization.

“For the last seven years, they have brought to us the resources,” said Dr. Timothy Chase of the Glen Meade Center for Women’s Health.

“They have cared for us, they have brought us quality,” said Dr. Samuel Wheatley of the Columbus Regional Healthcare System.

“Whether other ones would or not I have no idea, but I can tell you that our relationship with Atrium has allowed us to maintain a tremendous amount of local control,” said Dr. Frederick Meine of the NHRMC Physician Group.

County commissioner Jonathan Barfield says he was disappointed with the turnout at Monday’s public hearing.

“I expected to see more of our citizens here voicing their concerns, either in favor of or not in favor of a sale or partnership of the hospital,” Barfield said. “But what I heard tonight is pretty much what I’ve heard throughout the whole entire process. I did add up the for’s and against, and it’s somewhat neck and neck in many ways.

This was the last opportunity for the public to share their comments. While there is no set date, it is likely the PAG could make a recommendation to county commissioners within the next month.

Click here for more information on the possible sale or partnership.

The entire meeting video will be posted here under ‘Special Meetings.’