By WECT Staff | September 15, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT – Updated September 15 at 11:29 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – A year into the exploration process for the future of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) held its fourth virtual community forum Tuesday night to address questions and concerns from the public.
Since July 2 when the recommendation was made to partner with Novant Health, UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine, the PAG has been instrumental in fine-tuning details of the agreement and has continued to involve the public in community forums.
At the fourth community forum, 62 people attended virtually and several concerns were discussed.
Some Brunswick County residents say medical services have declined since Novant Health took over. However, according to Novant, patient surveys rank Brunswick’s healthcare in the top 10 percent for patient experience.
With the announced closure of The Harbor, a facility-based crisis and substance use detox facility, there is concern about whether Novant is prepared for this. Novant’s answer was that in the proposed agreement, $50 million is earmarked for behavioral health.
One attendee asked how Novant will work with other organizations to invest in the community. The response was that, in general, Novant will respond to community needs as they arise. More specifically, $1.25 billion will be appropriated by a community foundation comprising an 11-person board that will be independent of the County and Novant.
When asked if selling was the only option for the hospital, PAG members responded that it was the best option because Novant met both essential criteria of having the vision to expand services into under-served areas and the capital funds for long-term investment.
People with fears about increasing health care costs and insurance premiums rising were assured that because patients need quality healthcare that is affordable, Novant will strive to provide good value for money.
Another attendee asked for assurance that minority communities will not be negatively impacted by the partnership. The response to this was that health equity and diversity are a core part of Novant’s mission.
One final question was regarding the name of the hospital—will this change with the partnership? Apparently, not without collaboration with the community and board approval.
The final agreement will be shared publicly later this month and there will be one more public hearing before the agreement is presented to the Board of Trustees and the Board of Commissioners in October for approval.
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