Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A letter to the community from the NHRMC Partnership Advisory Group [Free Read]

As members of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Partnership Advisory Group, we have the privilege of representing the citizens of this community in the thoughtful evaluation of how to best secure and advance the future of health care for this region.

We came together for this important task from different backgrounds and with different perspectives. Some of us came with the opinion shared by many of you: that NHRMC is a strong organization as is, with no reason to change.

Then we started learning more. We learned that, as good as NHRMC is, there are barriers that will keep it from being truly great in the future.

The most notable, undeniable fact is that NHRMC does not have the resources to keep pace with how quickly this region’s population is growing. That affects all of us. When you need hospitalization, you do not want to wait for an open bed. When you need a doctor, you do not want to wait months for an appointment. Just like we need to plan for growth with schools, roads, and infrastructure, we need to plan for population growth with additional health care.

NHRMC has a plan for that growth. It is the result of a careful and thorough study of the market, including population, health, and industry trends in each of the seven counties NHRMC serves. It was developed by a committee that included staff, doctors and members of the Board of Trustees who listened to their peers, patients, and consumers who shared what is important to them and what they would like to see in area healthcare. It includes adding new services throughout the region to improve access to primary care that can keep people well and specialists to treat even the most life-threatening conditions. It includes adding the programs, digital options, and personnel to offer innovative ways to improve quality of life and keep medical costs down.

It is a strong plan that lacks one thing: the funding to implement on a timeline to be successful.

Throughout the last nine months, dozens of meetings, and countless hours of research, the Partnership Advisory Group has been considering whether and how NHRMC could sustain its current quality, service, value, and culture while growing to meet the needs of our community.

Each of us came to realize that change is needed. Today’s strains will only get worse as the population grows and the healthcare industry evolves. There will be more financial pressure on NHRMC as it adapts to challenges which could quickly drain the system’s reserves and inhibit its ability to respond to new circumstances. Given the size and scope of NHRMC, relying on New Hanover County taxpayers as the owners and financial backing for the hospital is an unrealistic proposition.

Many of us hoped a change of governance structure would be enough to solve the problem. But while that option eased some of the operational restrictions NHRMC has by providing the system the flexibility to invest in other counties, it does little to address the financial gaps that remain or provide new opportunities for improving health in our communities.

We then turned our attention to the possibilities of limited partnerships and joint ventures, as ways to retain local ownership and secure new funding. These options also fall short, with a myriad of implications that result in minimal advantages for patients, staff, and our community relative to the much more significant financial and operational advantages obtained through a full partnership that would preserve local control of important decisions.

Fortunately, we not only have options that could help us through the challenges ahead, we have an opportunity to truly transform our community for the better.

Leading non-profit North Carolina health systems have offered to partner with New Hanover Regional Medical Center to provide new services for our growing community. They could help add care, staff, and providers when and where they are needed throughout our region. With more options, we can better manage our health at lower costs.

These potential partners have recognized the strength of our local healthcare team and our desire to keep important decisions in the hands of those who will be closest to the care and living among us. They have heard how important it is to preserve the culture of the organization that holds provider involvement, job security and good benefits for employees among its highest priorities. They have seen NHRMC’s commitment to delivering the highest quality of care and service to everyone at the lowest cost possible. They have heard our passion for eliminating disparities and advancing health equity.

Through their proposals and our meetings with them, they have shown how they can support all these priorities and dramatically accelerate efforts to improve the lives of all those NHRMC serves. They have offered more local control than we thought possible and outlined the many ways they could support our local team in controlling costs and advancing care and wellness.

Each one of us on the advisory group has come to believe a partnership is the right choice for New Hanover Regional Medical Center and the people of this region.

We recognize the significance of the decision before us and we do not take it lightly. Over the last nine months, we have participated in dozens of meetings and spent countless hours reading and doing our own research. We have read the emails sent to us by area residents, participated in forums with community groups, employees, and providers, and asked questions until we were satisfied with the answers.

In the interest of transparency, we want you to know where we stand now, so you can join us in the discussion of what comes next. We look forward to hearing your thoughts about each of the proposed partnerships and what they could mean for us. We hope you will consider the possibilities ahead and imagine, with us, all that is possible for our future.


Members of the NHRMC Partnership Advisory Group:

Barb Biehner, Co-Chair                          Spence Broadhurst, Co-Chair

Bill Cameron, Vice Co-Chair                 Joseph Pino, MD, Vice Co-Chair

Virginia Adams, PhD, RN, FAAN          Sandra Hall, MD

Evelyn Bryant                                       Tony McGhee

Pastor Robert Campbell                       Michael Papagikos, MD

Chris Coudriet                                       Rob Shakar, MD

Cedric Dickerson                                  Meade Horton Van Pelt

Brian Eckel                                           Mary Kathryn Rudyk, MD

Jack Fuller                                           Jason Thompson

Hannah Dawson Gage                       David Williams

John Gizdic

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