WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – While no vote was taken—though there was an attempt—members of the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) exploring the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center formed a united front: They believe the best path forward is to find an outside partner.
At their meeting Thursday night, five smaller groups of PAG members went through the overall group’s 18 key elements, the goals and objectives they outlined in the early days of the group’s work.
Over the last few months, these work groups have been discussing those elements, and how they would be served best by keeping the status quo, re-structuring or forming a SystemCo within the hospital, or partnering with an outside organization. Each element was “scored” using a Harvey Ball rating system.
In all but one area, control at the local level, the groups scored partnering with an outside organization higher than maintaining the status quo or forming a SystemCo.
After their presentations, several of the members expressed their positions on the overall process as the PAG nears the end of its work, and many said they have had a significant change of opinion since the work started nine months ago.
“I sort of swung the pendulum,” said Dr. Michael Papagikos,”[I] swung from sort of a, you know, ‘Hell no, there’s got to be a different way that no one’s been clever enough to think about,’ to, thinking that that there is a real possibility and real meaningful generational transformation possibilities that are ahead of us if we pick the right strategic partner.”
Others had similar changes in perspective.
“I was a skeptic, I was completely focused on what we’d lose, and it took me a long time to understand or to focus on the possibilities and on what we would gain,” Hannah Dawson Gage said.
As a representative of the community, Gage said she brought in the concerns that have been expressed by many about the loss of local control over what happens at the hospital.
Groups such as Save Our Hospital and others have expressed that concern through public forums and opinion articles.
“I think that what we will lose by giving up our independence pales in comparison to what we will gain by finding the right partner with the right terms that give us the kind of local control that we want. I think that it will be transformative. And so, you know, I changed my mind,” she said.
The discussion came after the 11th-hour news that Atrium Health is proposing a second option in addition to its 40-year lease proposal, in the form of a $2 billion purchase option.
That and other issues were discussed by PAG leadership at the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Power Breakfast, as well as by co-chairs after Thursday night’s open session.
“I felt like as a member of the PAG and as a banker, that some of the respondents were undervaluing our hospital from a financial and a delivery standpoint,” said co-chair Spence Broadhurst. “And I thought the Novant offer was closer to market value. Now, Atrium is recognizing that and has raised their offer somewhat. And so, it gives us another piece of the puzzle to evaluate and we’re glad to have that piece of the puzzle.”
There will be a public hearing Monday, June 22 regarding the future of the hospital. The hearing will be held at the historic courthouse in downtown Wilmington at 5 p.m., and social distancing guidelines will be followed.
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