Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Save Our Hospital group plans public meeting, speakers to address potential NHRMC sale

Gene Merritt, founder of Save Our Hospital, Inc. at a press conference in downtown Wilmington. (Port City Daily photo / Ben Schachtman)

WILMINGTON — The Save Our Hospital group, founded last year to oppose the sale of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, is planning a ‘public information meeting’ later this month.

The Save Our Hospital, Inc. group, was created in November by Gene Merritt, who described the group as a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded to “inform the public on the potential effects of selling or partnering” NHRMC. The while Merritt has met with the Partnership Advisory Group (PAG) guiding the sale exploration process to consider a range of options, the organization staunchly opposes a sale of the hospital (its website is “www.nohospitalsale.com“).

The public meeting will feature three speakers: North Carolina State Treasurer Dale Folwell, Duke University business professor Barak Richman, and Renaissance Wilmington Foundation President and CEO William P. Graham.

The speakers

Two of the speakers have already voiced their concerns to Port City Daily about hospital mergers in general, and NHRMC’s potential sale in particular.

In an interview in late August, Richman told Port City Daily it was his experience that hospital mergers and acquisitions did not lead to decreased costs.

“The mergers always begin with these grand promises — and there is virtually no evidence that those promises are kept with any certainty,” Richman said.

Richman added that the county’s ability to steer the fate of the hospital after a deal would depend largely on which entity bought or partnered with NHRMC — and how the county handled the RFP process. Richman noted that mergers or acquisitions can stabilize a failing hospital, but the benefits for a thriving hospital were unclear.

“That said, it’s my understanding that your hospital is a good hospital, and financially successful. If the hospital and the county and the people are happy with the way things are — then I think it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they are happier after a sale,” Richman said.

Folwell has been an outspoken critic of hospital mergers and has raised concerns specifically about the potential NHRMC sale.

“All the evidence points to consolidation and mergers like this driving up the prices up… and decreasing patient outcomes,” Folwell said. “It’s the reason they call them community hospitals, it’s because their loyalty is to the people who live in that community. When you sell to an outside group, you lose that loyalty pretty quickly.”

Folwell said he first-hand experience seeing the impact employees covered by state health plans.

“We’re not saying this because other people are saying this — we’re saying this because we see the bills,” Folwell said.

NHRMC President and CEO addressed some of these concerns in an interview with Port City Daily, which you can find here.

The meeting

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21 at the New Hanover County Northeast Public Library at 1241 Military Cutoff Road. According to Merritt, questions from the audience will be encouraged, and attendees are encouraged to come early and ‘get a good seat.’

Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localvoicemedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001

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