Monday, April 22, 2024

After warning it would back out locally, UNC Health now says it will partner on Novant’s bid for NHRMC

UNC Health employs approximately 33,000 people across North Carolina, according to its NHRMC proposal. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy UNC Health)
UNC Health employs approximately 33,000 people across North Carolina, according to its NHRMC proposal. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy UNC Health)

SOUTHEASTERN, N.C. — UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine has partnered with Novant Health in efforts to secure a partnership or purchase New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC).

This comes after UNC Health leadership informed NHRMC last month it would be forced to back out or significantly diminish its academic and clinical presence locally if NHRMC chose a different partner.

Related: After PAG passes on UNC Health offer, will the medical school pull out of Wilmington?

Now that UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine have partnered with Novant Health, the UNC leadership announced Thursday it will continue to invest and expand locally if NHRMC chooses Novant Health. The partnership may put both healthcare systems in a stronger negotiating position with the county compared to its remaining competitors.

One of three

Novant Health is one of the three remaining health systems selected by NHRMC’s Partnership Advirosyr Group (PAG). Duke and Atrium were also selected by the PAG as finalists in the county’s request for proposals process, including offers from six health systems to partner or purchase NHRMC. The PAG’s choices have since been approved by the NHRMC Board and County commissioners.

When the PAG ruled UNC Health’s proposal out of consideration, some local officials shared concerns the decision would negatively impact the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and the hospital’s relationship with the UNC system.

The PAG does not have the ultimate authority to select a new partner for the county-owned hospital; New Hanover County Commissioners do. It’s still possible Commissioners could select a partner the PAG did not recommend.

Twice in writing, UNC Health informed the PAG that selected another partner could mean the end of its relationship with Wilmington-area establishments.

“If you choose to embark with another partner, UNC Health and UNC School of Medicine will not be able to continue our current educational and clinical presence in Wilmington. We would not carry out the proposed Academic Partnership included in our submitted RFP response should UNC
Health not be selected as NHRMC’s primary partner,” Dr. Wesley Burks, UNC Health’s CEO, wrote in a letter to the PAG.

Burks pointed to the upcoming closure of the UNC School of Medicine’s branch campus in Charlotte, spurred by Atrium’s choice to partner with Wake Forest instead of UNC Health. “The reality is that new health system partnerships sometimes compromise existing educational partnerships,” Burks wrote.

New partnership

Novant Health and UNC Health signed a letter of intent formalizing the organizations’ commitment to expanding the medical education program at NHRMC, if chosen. This includes enhancing the pediatric program and other service lines, according to a Novant Health press release. According to a Novant Health spokesperson, the organizations are not releasing the letter of intent at this time, but more details about the partnership will soon be announced.

Per the letter of intent, the organizations are committed to expanding the medical education program at NHRMC, including enhancing the long-standing pediatric program and other service lines as appropriate. More details will be announced as the partnership is finalized.

“I am pleased to ensure that the medical education that exists at NHRMC with the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health can continue if Novant Health is selected to partner with NHRMC,” Carl S. Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health, said in a press release. “Maintaining and expanding medical education at NHRMC will allow Novant Health to best serve the Wilmington community while continuing to build the pipeline of physician talent for North Carolina.”

“We are pleased to form a partnership with Novant Health that would enhance our educational presence and allow us to train the next generation of physicians and promote economic development for the entire Wilmington region,” Burks said in the release. “Together, we will combine the best of teaching, research and clinical care to optimally serve the residents of southeastern North Carolina for decades to come.”

Find more information on all six partnership proposals here.

Related Articles