Supporter, opponent of hospital sale react to attorney general’s decision

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Attorney General Josh Stein has given his blessing for the county to sell New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health, but some still have concerns about whether this is the best decision for the community.

Former State Senator Harper Peterson is against selling New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

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“I’m shocked, I’m disappointed in our attorney general, I’m sad for our community,” Peterson said.

He says he had been in talks with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the review of the sale, and feels blindsided by the announcement.

“We assumed that the conversation would go on, the official 60 day review had not begun yet,” Peterson said. “We were led to believe – misled – that it would begin in the near future.”

One of the primary concerns about the sale involves handing over $1.25 billion to the New Hanover Community Endowment, a private non-profit organization. It is controlled by an 11-member board selected by county commissioners and the hospital board of trustees.

“As a board, they don’t represent the community that needs to be served,” Peterson said. “We need people on the ground that work on a daily basis with the underserved populations, the marginalized populations.”

Part of stein’s approval hinged on adding two members to that board with experience working on the issues the endowment will support, like public health, support to underserved populations, and promotion of racial equity and justice.

“Adding two members that they appoint, it’s essentially a politically appointed board,” Peterson said.

The chair of that board is Spence Broadhurst, who served as co-chair of the hospital’s Partnership Advisory Group during the sale/partnership exploration process. He applauds the attorney general’s decision.

“I think the county did an excellent job up front of setting up the endowment to provide transparency,” Broadhurst said. “I just think we’ve had more time now, all of us, the county the endowment board, the attorney general’s office to work together to add enhancements to it.”

Broadhurst says he believes the endowment board will go above and beyond the attorney general’s requirements.

“We want the community input so that we can put this money to work in the right way,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about, how do we put this money to work to change lives, how do we put this money to work to really fundamentally move the needle and solve problems.”

However, Peterson says he and others who oppose the sale are going to keep fighting.

“We’re not finished,” he said. “We’re going to continue asking questions, asking for documents under the freedom of information act and get to the bottom of this.”

The attorney general says he has concerns about community hospitals being bought up by large organizations, but that his office has limited authority when conducting these types of reviews.

Click here to view the nonobjection letter.