PAG holds community Q&A over Novant partnership recommendation


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Less than one week after the Partnership Advisory Group recommended New Hanover Regional Medical Center partner with Novant Health, the group held a community question and answer session.

It also comes one day after the NHRMC Board of Trustees voted to approve the PAG’s recommendation. 

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For the first time since the recommendation, and the last time before County Commissioners vote on it, the public had a chance to voice questions and concerns via a Facebook live stream.

“We have one question relative to why we’re holding this meeting now instead of before we made a decision,” read PAG co-chair Barb Biehner.

Biehner defended the partnership exploration process, saying the public had opportunities to raise questions and concerns.

“We did have two public hearings that really were along the way to get the input before we made our recommendation,” she said. “So now we’re trying to make sure we can explain what our recommendation was all about.”

Some questions were raised about what specialty care Novant Health could bring to the region if the partnership is approved.

“The question that’s being asked is will there be a plan for a pediatric oncology clinic,” Biehner read.

“I don’t know if we’re at the point where we’re going to have our own pediatric cancer center next year, but I do know that an affiliation like this is going to accelerate when we eventually can do something like that,” answered PAG member and NHRMC employee Dr. Michael Papagikos.

Another person questioned whether the proposed deal with Novant is truly a partnership or rather a sale.

“You can call it a purchase, you can call it whatever you want to call it,” said PAG co vice-chair Bill Cameron. “I’m going to view it as a partnership because I believe that really is in fact what it is. We brought things to the table, they brought things to the table.”

Several questions came up about job security for current employees both clinical and non-clinical. The PAG says a new local governance board made up of community members and physicians will make those decisions, not Novant.

“I wanted to reinforce that because I think people have the view that maybe somebody from some other place in the state is going to make our decisions,” said PAG member Jack Fuller. “That is not the case the way it is outlined in the Letter of Intent right now.”

Finally, what happens if county commissioners approve the recommendation on Monday, July 13? Biehner says the PAG would then form a list of key terms and conditions for a definitive agreement.

“​The definitive agreement will be made public after it goes to the boards and a public hearing will be held,” she said. “The Partnership Advisory Group will vote on the definitive agreement and bring that recommendation to the NHRMC Board of Trustees and the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners for final approval.”

Coming to a final agreement could take several more months.

In an agenda released Wednesday, it was confirmed that county commissioners will vote on the Novant recommendation Monday.

Click here to watch the full Q&A session.