WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Partnership Advisory Group, tasked with exploring the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, voted Tuesday night in favor of a final purchase agreement with Novant Health.
The unanimous decision was the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of work by the PAG. Since its first meeting on October 29, 2019, the group discussed the needs of the hospital according to the strategic plan, and the best way to meet those needs.
In January the PAG sent Requests for Proposals to 28 potential buyers and partners. Six organizations responded with proposals: Atrium Health, Bon Secours Mercy Health, Duke Health, HCA Healthcare, Novant Health and UNC Health.
The group narrowed that list to Atrium, Duke, and Novant, before settling on Novant as its preferred partner in July.
Last week, a judge blocked an attempt by the non-profit Save Our Hospital Inc. to delay the sale until certain confidential documents were made public. On Monday, a public hearing was held for the community to voice comments and concerns about the agreement.
The PAG addressed some of those concerns during its final meeting.
“There’s a lot of semantics going around about whether is it control, is it ownership? Yes, they are purchasing the assets but the board will be selected on the local level,” said PAG co-chair Barb Biehner.
The local board of trustees will be made up of 17 members, at least 12 of which live locally, and at least three of which are physicians. That board will oversee and govern operations at the hospital rather than Novant.
“Novant is not going to be dictating what the hospital wants to do and what it can do,” Biehner said. “There are rules about selling to a non-profit going forward, and that it can’t happen without the approval of the local board. So there’s a lot of stipulations in there and requirements in there that are really protecting us going forward.”
The county is also protected if Novant falls through on their nearly $5 billion commitment.
“There are remedies like there are in any contract and one of them is that New Hanover County can buy the hospital back at fair market value,” said PAG co-chair Spence Broadhurst. “Nobody sees that happening.”
As part of the purchase agreement, Novant will retain all NHRMC employees for a minimum of two years.
Back in July, the NHRMC Board of Trustees laid out how some of the proceeds would be spent, including a $1.25 billion foundation to provide financial support to local education, health, and social equity, community development and community safety.
The NHRMC Board of Trustees will vote on the agreement on Thursday. New Hanover County Commissioners will make the final deciding vote on Monday.
Broadhurst is confident believes those boards will echo the PAG’s decision.
“Well they agreed last time, and we’re confident, you know, we’re unanimous once again that this is the right thing for the community,” he said.
You can view the agreement here.
You can view the PAG’s presentation from Tuesday’s meeting here.