WILMINGTON — Medical staff from the New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) have asked county commissioners to delay a decision on the potential sale of the hospital for several months. However, a majority of commissioners say they will move ahead with a scheduled September 3 vote.
In a letter to commissioners delivered earlier this week, Dr. William Hope, NHRMC president of medical staff, asked for the delay – as well as a meeting with some or all of the commissioners – on behalf of the medical staff. Hope himself has recently urged “openmindedness” about the potential sale, which he has said he supports.
Hope’s letter states that the request came from staff:
As the President of the Medical Staff of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, I have been asked to request that we invite you (or a select group of you) to meet with representatives of the Medical Staff for an exchange of ideas and questions regarding the Request for Proposal for potential sale of the Hospital at your earliest convenience, but preferably prior to the September 3 meeting and vote.
Further, by a majority vote of a quorum of the Medical Staff, I have also been asked to respectfully request a delay in the upcoming vote on September 3 for a period up to 90 days. The Medical Staff felt that further education of both the physicians and the community as to the ramifications of such a decision is necessary before such a step is taken.
The September vote would begin the formal process of exploring a sale and the drafting of requests for proposals, but would not be a decision to sell the hospital system. County Manager Chris Coudriet and NHRMC CEO and President John Gizdic have said the county and hospital would be open to a range of options, including an outright sale, a new partnership or co-management structure, or leaving NHRMC under county control.
Commissioner Woody White, who has said he is in favor of exploring a sale, said he had spoken to Dr. Hope and “told him that I could only speak for myself but that I was not supportive of a delay and that I intended to cast a vote on September 3.”
White said he would consider the requested meeting with hospital staff.
Commissioner Julia Olsen-Boseman, who has also supported exploring the sale, said she would not support delaying the September vote; she added that she didn’t understand objections to exploring options for NHRMC.
“I don’t know how people can say no to it when they don’t know what it is yet,” Olson-Boseman said.
Commissioner Patricia Kusek said her preference was to move ahead, as well.
Port City Daily also reached out to Commissioner Rob Zapple, who has publicly spoken out against the sale, and Chairman Jonathan Barfield.
Zapple said he was “delighted” that the medical staff had reached out.
“They’re a major stakeholder — they are the doctors who are providing treatment for us, I look forward to a meeting with them to get their perspective,” Zapple said.
Zapple added that he was in favor of delaying a vote, noting that the six-week timeframe between the announcement last month and the scheduled vote was too short to fully vet the options for NRMC. Zapple also noted that he was concerned about the impact a sale would have on the hospital’s quality of care and ability to reinvest in the community, among other issues he enumerated in a recent editorial.
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