County commissioners vote in support of NHRMC, Novant partnership

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Commissioners voted 4-1 Monday night in support of a resolution to move forward with the multi-billion dollar offer from Novant Health to partner with New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

“I think it speaks volumes that the PAG voted 21-0, 21-0 for a partnership and then 21-0 for Novant and UNC Health School of Medicine,” said Commission Chair Julia Olson-Boseman. “I trust the PAG, and we had trusted them to do the heavy lifting and to work through all this.”

The hospital board of trustees approved the recommendation last week and laid out how nearly $2 billion cash purchase proceeds would be spent. The total investment proposed by Novant is nearly $5 billion over 12 years.

The decision validated nearly nine months of work by the Partnership Advisory Group. Co-chairs Spence Broadhurst and Barb Biehner are now looking ahead to the next steps.

“We feel like it’s our responsibility I think, to really step out now and spend time explaining our work so to speak, how did we get here?” Broadhurst said. “Because this was an evolution in thinking for a lot of us.”

However, not everyone supported the move. County Commissioner Rob Zapple criticized the speed of the process and called for more time to review the letter of intent.

“I cannot support this motion or approve this letter of intent as I am convinced that in its current form, it is not in the best interest of our citizens or our county,” Zapple said. “Nothing is lost if we take two weeks or even 30 days.”

Olson-Boseman and the three other commissioners disagreed.

“Commissioner Zapple doesn’t really seem to understand this or seem to be grasping it or understanding the process going forward,” Olson-Boseman said. “I’ve been really insulted by him from the beginning, implying that any of us were crooked.”

The next steps include county and NHRMC staff finalizing a definitive agreement with Novant. The PAG will then vote on it and put it before the hospital board of trustees and county commissioners.

That agreement will be made public before commissioners vote, and there will be an opportunity for public comment.

That final vote is expected at the board’s second meeting in October.

Click here to view documents and videos from past PAG meetings.

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