NHRMC, Novant Health partnership begins

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A year and a half after New Hanover County first mentioned the idea of selling New Hanover Regional Medical Center, today that idea is now a reality.

Monday marks the first day of NHRMC’s partnership with Novant Health, after Attorney General Josh Stein did not object to the sale of NHRMC to Novant with certain conditions.

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According to a news release from New Hanover County, the sale of NHRMC from New Hanover County to Novant Health opens new opportunities for collaboration and growth as well as additional medical education and clinical capabilities through an expansion of NHRMC’s relationship with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine.

“We are excited to expand the Novant Health family to include New Hanover Regional Medical Center,” said Carl S. Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health. “Throughout this process, Novant Health has been confident in the tremendous benefits this partnership would bring to the community: leading-edge, high-quality care closer to home, availability of care to underserved communities and lower health care costs. Looking forward, we are eager to hit the ground running and work with the local board and leadership team to identify our first steps to continue improving the health of those in New Hanover and surrounding communities.”

“I look forward to a remarkable future of health care in southeastern North Carolina,” said John Gizdic, president and CEO of NHRMC. “Some years from now, I know we will look back on today and appreciate how joining Novant Health launched greater opportunities to meet our growing region’s needs. Together, we will improve the health of our community by continuing and strengthening our focus on quality patient care and access for all.”

The process to sell NHRMC did not come without pushback. The idea of selling the county-owned hospital to a for-profit organization had some questioning whether services would remain the same and if those who are indigent will still receive services. 

New Hanover Regional has said the region’s rapid population growth combined with changes in the industry require NHRMC to quickly adapt and grow. But NHRMC didn’t have the financial strength and infrastructure to do this at the pace required.

Gizdic says the name of the hospital won’t be changed just yet.

“One of the items that remains with the local board is a decision around branding,” he said. “So we are working together to really come up with that recommendation.

Armato and Gizdic say there are some policies going into effect immediately that will impact both patients and employees.

“Anybody at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level will not get a bill from Novant Health,” Armato said. “We’ve got a $15 minimum wage.”

Also with the sale comes a partnership with UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine.

“We’re expanding the school of medicine, so six additional students in the coming year, and six each additional year after that,” Gizdic said.

Both Gizdic and Armato believe the partnership could help our region in the fight against COVID-19.

“Novant Health Brunswick Community Hospital and Medical Center will actually be under John Gizdic’s purview,” Armato said. “So he will oversee the entire region of the southeast which will also now allow us to coordinate our vaccine efforts.”

County commission chair Julia Olson-Boseman and Commissioner Rob Zapple, the only member of the board to vote against the partnership, both reacted favorably to the partnership.

“I am just so excited, it’s such a huge victory for New Hanover County and southeastern North Carolina just for better quality of health care,” Olson-Boseman said.

“The 1.25 billion dollars will provide a substantial amount of money per year for projects that will enhance our quality of life and do great things for our community,” Zapple said.

Zapple praised the changes that Attorney General Josh Stein implemented before approving the sale. Olson-Boseman stated she believed the agreement did not need those changes.