NEW HANOVER COUNTY — It’s been a few weeks since the New Hanover Board of County Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of exploring the possible sale of the hospital to a private entity. One of the biggest concerns from residents was the lack of public input taken into account before agreeing to move forward with the possible sale.
Now, a month after the board agreed to move forward with the exploration of a sale, commissioners are looking for public input and will host a public hearing on Oct. 15.
“The purpose of the public hearing is to receive comments related to the September 16 adoption by the Board of Commissioners of a resolution that will allow the county and New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC) to accept proposals from other health systems and get more information to determine how best to secure the future of healthcare in the region. All comments made will be part of the public record, and New Hanover County will broadcast the public hearing live on the county’s Facebook page for anyone unable to attend,” according to a county press release.
According to County Commissioner Rob Zapple, one of the dissenting votes, transparency and a lack of input from stakeholders was one of his main concerns.
“I’ve spoken to hundreds of citizens across our county and the vast majority share my concern,” Zapple said, according to previous reporting. “This process is being rushed unnecessarily and is not transparent, and important stakeholders in this decision are being ignored.”
Now that the public will have the chance to directly address the County Commissioners in one of a series of multiple hearings prior to moving forward with any sale.
“The focus of the public hearing will be on the community’s healthcare priorities. Opinions shared will be considered by County Commissioners, as well as members of the Partnership Advisory Group, which is a group that Commissioners authorized to help lead the community’s efforts to explore options for the future. The Advisory Group is being established currently, and – once formed – they will develop a request for proposals (RFP) based on the community’s priorities and evaluate the options going forward. Throughout the process, the group will report back to the public and the County Commissioners about their findings and recommendations,” according to the release.
“The October 15 public hearing is the first of a series of hearings that will be held before any final decision is made. After proposals are submitted and initially reviewed, they will all be made public for the community’s review. Another public hearing will take place at that time to discuss the proposals received and more hearings will be held if it is decided to move forward with any of them. The process is expected to take a year or more,” the release concludes.
The first public hearing will be held on Tuesday, October 15 from 4 to 7 p.m. in the auditorium at Snipes Academy of Arts & Design, located at 2150 Chestnut Street in Wilmington.
“The public can come at any time during the hearing to sign up and be heard; arrival at the beginning of the hearing is not required,” according to the county.